Together Farms Diversifies into Agritourism

Stephanie Schneider discusses starting Together Farms with no prior experience and growing it into a thriving operation with direct-to-consumer sales and on-farm Burger Night.

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #112, Andy sits down with Stephanie Schneider of Together Farms in Mondovi, Wisconsin, at the edge of the Driftless Area. This diversified farm business sells 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured heritage pork, and meal kits direct-to-consumer, delivering locally and shipping regionally. Together Farms also hosts farm tours and Burger Night onsite.

Stephanie and husband Andy purchased the “dilapidated old dairy farm” and small farmhouse in 2009, wanting to raise their daughters in the country and produce their own food. Neither had ag experience, so they had to learn it all—and build most of the infrastructure—as they went. Committed to raising animals 100% on grass, they made mistakes along the way but gained knowledge and experience too.

Around 2012, adjacent acreage came up for sale, so the Schneiders seized the fortuitous opportunity, bought the land, and tried to turn farming into a real business. They planned to sell their meats at farmers markets, but when that fell through last minute, they pivoted to online sales—long before most farms were doing it. Figuring out e-commerce was tricky, as neither Stephanie nor Andy had marketing backgrounds either, but they got it dialed in.

Then a few years ago, Stephanie was “drowning in lard” and wanted to figure out a way to use it. She also hoped to branch into agritourism. To accomplish both, plus feature Together Farms’ grass-fed beef, she came up with Burger Night. The Schneiders didn’t have restaurant experience, but folks from farm-to-table restaurants they supplied meat to helped them get it off the ground.

After a successful test-run in 2017, bolstered by a feature on Wisconsin Foodie, the Schneiders invested in the infrastructure to host Burger Night every weekend May through October. The event really took off during the height of the pandemic and now draws some 500 people per weekend.

Although Stephanie quit her day job two years ago, the family still relies on Andy’s off-farm income. He plans to join her full-time within two years, which will help them “get our heads above water from the daily grind,” get a better handle on their businesses, and boost efficiencies across the board.

In the meantime, the Schneiders secured loans to construct a building for hay storage and pig housing, plus a multipurpose facility for shipping and receiving and a farm store. They aim to finish both buildings this year. Ultimately, the store will feature Together Farms’ meats alongside other local producers’ goods.

Smartly, the Schneiders have incorporated their multiple enterprises as separate businesses. And while Stephanie says they still have a lot to learn about finances, they’ve done a good job of keeping expenses in line with cash flow, receiving help from FSA, EIDL money, and Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants. Once the new buildings are complete and Andy becomes full-time, they’ll streamline operations further and hopefully drive more revenue.