We started our selling beef direct to consumers in the early 90’s. Our first sales went to family and friends. Then friends of friends. Then chefs and retail spaces; and so the story goes. Those first people took a real gamble on us and our dream. Buying directly from a farm wasn’t mainstream, in fact almost no one else was doing it. Through the years, we evolved with the markets, and as demand grew, we adjusted - first it was “Natural,” followed by “Lean,” then “Local,” and today, we are Grass-fed Finished.
Today, the food scene in WI has exploded and we are blessed to live in an area that is not only so productive and creative, but is so supportive of the work we and others do. Today, there are many producers and farmers who do what we do, and do an amazing job at it. As more and more do so, they need to embrace the accreditations of Organic, 100% Grassfed, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) Approved, and so on, to stand out in the crowd. And although we were the first beef farm in America to be approved by the AWI in 2006, we have since let that go - we have never felt that those labels truly identify us. What separates us, from Day 1, has been our commitment to conservation. We strive to give our animals the best life we can, by providing them the best environment that we can. That has been our accreditation. It is our duty as land stewards. It’s not always something that you can put on paper (or on a label), but it’s something you can see with your own eyes. Every one of our chefs, store managers, and (almost every) consumer has been out to our farm to see first hand the work we do. We have never felt the need to pay for a label to prove our worth, but instead, let our actions speak for it. Not only is part of our farm is in a permanent Conservation Easement, but we have been blessed to be recognized for our actions, and we are extremely proud and thankful for all of those who helped us, supported us, nominated us, and voted for us, along the way.
-Water Quality Leadership Award, Iowa County Land Conservation Department - 2018
-WI Master Agriculturist Award Recognition, WI Agriculturalist - 2016
-Bur Oak Award, Blue Mounds Area Project - 2016
-WI Leopold Conservation Award, Sand County Foundation and WI Farm Bureau Federation - 2013 **
-Service to Agriculture Recognition, Farm & Industry Short Course Alumni - 2012
-WI Grazing Community “Communicator of the Year”, 2009
-Friend of Agronomy, Dept. Agronomy, UW- Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences - 2008
-Cates Family Farm certification by the national Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) - 2006 *First beef farm in the USA to receive this certification; in 2008 on behalf of the AWI, was invited to address the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy, on issues of animal welfare.
-Distinguished Agricultural Award, Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison - 2000
-Midwest Food Alliance Certification - 2000 *First farm in Wisconsin to receive this certification
-Water Quality Leadership Award, Iowa County Land Conservation Department - 1999
-Wisconsin Soil and Water Conservation Achievement Award, Soil and Water Conservation Society of America - 1998
-Tree Farmer of the Year Award, Iowa County Land Conservation Department - 1996
**We are most proud of the Leopold Conservation Award through the Sand County Foundation. It is truly a recognition of our life’s work. This award came with a monetary honor which we subsequently used to set up a Conservation Scholarship through our local River Valley High School in Spring Green for graduating Seniors who show “A Commitment to Conservation.” Additionally, we have used these funds to help sponsor a Conservation Field Day for the River Valley Middle School, with the support of the DNR, Foresters, and Fish and Wildlife Ecologists, as well as Conservation and Restoration Professionals.