In 2013, at 101 years old, R.G. Shipley came out of retirement to launch a start-up with his son and grandson, Bob and Gray Shipley. He had been in the cattle raising business with his family since 1929, when he inherited a 150-acre farm from his uncle; he retired from the business at 90 years old. In recent years, the Shipley farmland had become extremely valuable to developers, and so the Shipley family formulated a plan to maximize its value as a working farm and make sure the land was preserved.
Three generations of the Shipleys–grandfather, father, and son–set about to combine time-honored cattle raising expertise with a business model that responded to the demand for high-quality, pasture-raised beef. The family came up with a new twist on their historic farming work. The Shipleys built a brand of packaged beef products around their tradition of “no short cuts” farming; that is, pasture-raised cattle free from added hormones, steroids and antibiotics. Shipley Farms opened up their premium retail brand to other local farmers so that the farmers can get a price that honors their cattle farming methods without having to spend every Saturday at the farmer’s market.
“There’s that feeling when you get out on the farm [with a] barn [that] was built in the 1860s…there is just that length of time and history. You couldn’t spend time around granddad and grandmother and not have this feeling that there’s a special history here…there’s a right way to do things that we just ought to stick to…There are more and more people that are wanting that opportunity to connect with where their food comes from. It’s important and there’s value in it.” – Gray Shipley on the motivation to build a retail model around sustainable cattle farming practices.