By RON WILSON
Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
The call came while she was sitting with her dad at a pizza place. Essentially, the message was: “Sorry, we’re canceling our entire order from your business.”
Since that was all the product that she had to sell, it seemed like disaster. But this was just a turning point in the development of what has become a remarkable business in rural Kansas.
Jacquelyne Leffler is the founder of Leffler Prime Performance, a direct-to-consumer beef marketing business that she operates in conjunction with her family’s farm. She lives on the place where she grew up, near the rural community of Americus, population 776 people. Now, that’s rural.
“We’re the fourth generation on the farm,” Leffler said. “Our family has been here since 1941.”
The Lefflers produce beef cattle, corn, soybeans and wheat.
“My sister and I grew up in 4-H,” Leffler said. “My grandfather would give us a steer for 4-H each year, but the proceeds from the steer’s sale had to go into a savings account for our college education.”
She noticed that some local people would buy those steers directly after the fair.
Leffler was also involved in sports. She found she especially enjoyed track and field.
“We had a new teacher who had been a collegiate track and field coach, so he really helped develop our talents,” Leffler said. At Northern Heights High School, she became an eight-time state champion in the shotput and discus and was highly recruited nationally.
“I had coaches from Oregon to North Carolina sitting in my living room, but I’m a Kansas kid,” Leffler said. On her birthday in 2008, at her local church, she signed a letter of intent to Kansas State.
She would go on to a successful collegiate career, scoring highly at the Big 12 and NCAA national championships. After graduation, she coached track and field for two years at Emporia State while helping her dad and grandpa on the farm. Then she began coaching track and field athletes on her own. Now she is also working with a nearby sports academy.
Meanwhile, she saw an opportunity to add value to her family’s beef sales by doing direct marketing to consumers. She started with five head of cattle and reached a deal with a retail outlet to buy them. Then she got a call while she happened to be sitting at a pizza restaurant with her dad: The retailer was backing out of the deal.
Leffler had her entire inventory of five head ready to go to market, but suddenly there was no buyer. “I thought it was the end,” she said. She put a post on Facebook and essentially said, “If anybody needs beef, let us know.”
“The community rallied around me,” Leffler said. Friends and neighbors stepped up to buy the beef.
“I saw the power of social media and community,” she said. She grew her direct beef marketing business. Then the COVID pandemic hit and demand for local beef exploded. She started connecting with consumers and other producers in a big way. She also noticed that customers would purchase a half or quarter of beef, but didn’t know how to prepare beef cuts.
“The Kansas Beef Council had boxes of beef recipe books that they couldn’t take to trade shows that were cancelled due to COVID, so they made those available to me,” Leffler said. “The beef checkoff did a lot for us.”
Today, Leffler Prime Performance is marketing retail and custom beef to states throughout the Midwest. “I enjoy putting high quality protein in local people’s freezers at an affordable price,” Leffler said. “God has really provided me with the best support system,” she said.
For more information, see www.lefflerprimeperformance.com.
The call cancelling her first order came while she was out with her dad, but it was only a curve on her journey to success. We commend Jacquelyne Leffler for making a difference with creatively marketing her family’s products. Her decision to market those products directly was a good call.
What about that local sports academy? We’ll learn about that next week.