His wife, Rochelle, joined the operation when she married Randy in 1986 and their children, Aaron, Michael, Thomas and Aislinn, have helped to make this a true "family farm," as have Arvin and his wife Twila, who still contribute, making their business,Tramar Farms, a three generation family operation.
The motto of Tramar Farms is "As close to nature as possible," and their goal is "to produce healthy, nutritious food that you can feel good about eating."
Their beliefs are that:
*It is our privilege to be stewards of the land, and we should leave it in a better state than when we got it.
*Our children should be raised in a healthy mental and physical environment. *Animals should be treated kindly, humanely, ethically, and have access to fresh air, clean water, green grass and sunshine.;"
*A healthy environment and gentle handling grows healthy animals, which reduces the need for medications."
To this end, Tramar Farms grow, process and direct-market their poultry, so that they can control all aspects of the business. Says Randy Hofmeyer, "We are not interested in mass marketing our products, but would rather develop a relationship" with their consumers.
The primary product at Tramar Farms is "pastured poultry," a production system that involves raising chickens directly on pasture. The model has been developed over the last 20 years, and allows the birds to receive 20% of their feed intake from pasture forage. The chickens are raised free range on pasture with shelters that are moved daily onto fresh grass. The birds have lots of room to run while still having the shelters to give them shade from the sun and protection from rain and predators. The birds are also fed a ration of corn, protein, minerals and probiotics, mixed with extra milk from the Hofmeyers' Jersey herd to make a wet feed.
The theory behind the grass feeding is that "when animals are fed the food that is most in harmony with their digestive system, it naturally results in healthier animals."
Meat and eggs from grass-fed animals, they say, supply our bodies with a natural source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, CLA and Beta Carotene. Free range animals produce lean meat that is very dense, tender, juicy and has wonderful flavor.
Hofmeyer cautions, though, that care must be taken not to overcook the meat, since it is very lean.
In addition to broiler chickens, which may be ordered by e-mail or telephone, and picked up at the Cherokee Farmer's Market every Thursday, or directly at Tramar Farms, Tramar also sells fresh, brown eggs - with dark yellow yolks - from their chickens.
Also available this fall will be corn-fed beef (with grass-fed beef a future goal) and a few stewing hens are usually available each year as well. Tramar's preference is that chicken be pre-ordered in the spring, so that they can order enough chicks to supply everyone's needs. They note, however, that they will try their best to also accommodate orders placed throughout the summer. Tramar Farms has had as many as 700 chickens in the past, but were down to 400 this year, due to poor economic conditions, including the high price of gas.
Randy says they usually sell between 4-5 head of Angus cattle a year and, as mentioned earlier, they also have a small herd of Jersey cows for milking, and also raise corn, beans, and "a little alfalfa hay" for their animals.
All Tramar animals are ethically raised and totally free of drugs and artificial hormones, and the products they sell have no chemical additives or animal by- products.
One of the most effective methods the Hofmeyers have used to market their product in a personal, "non-mass-marketing" manner is through the Cherokee Farmers' Market, which they attend every Thursday afternoon from early June through late September at the Old Railroad Depot, located at 119 S. 4th St. in Cherokee.
Among the items the Hofmeyers bring to the Farmers' Market are the broilers (which have been pre-ordered), eggs, and homemade wheat bread (made by Arvin) and cookies, baked by Twila.
The Hofmeyer children often help out at the Market as well. Aaron is now 19 years old and about to begin his freshman year at Iowa State University in Ames; Michael 17, is a junior at South O'Brien High School; 8th grader Thomas, 14, and 7th grader Aislinn, 13, were Dad's helpers at the Market when I stopped in for a visit last week.