[image-1]Back in 2010, Craig Deihl said MiBek Farms in Barnwell raised the best beef — a bold statement from one of the city’s meat mavens. But other chefs agreed. Nathan Thurston, then at The Ocean Room, used them. When Cory Burke opened the Green Door, he sourced MiBek beef too. Numerous menus across the city included the cattle farm in their list of local ingredients due to MiBek’s beef quality all thanks to the exacting work of owner Dr. Michael Worrell and his family. For 15 years Worrell worked to raise Black Angus cattle right, grass-fed and harvested at just the right moment for optimum lean to fat ratios.
Now, after a decade and half, Worrell has announced that his farm is closing.
“It’s all about personal and financial reasons. We’ve taken a hit, but it’s also been a toll on us personally. We just need to rest. I’ve given everything I’ve had to this farm for 15 years,” Worrell says. “Right now we’re not making any plans at all. It’s all a matter of resting. Then the evaluating down the road.”
Worrell says razor thin profit margins were a huge contributing factor to his closure. “To be perfectly honest, we’re big enough that we were able to have year-round supply, but not big enough to hire a lot of people to do our work. With the high prices of cattle, we weren’t making money. We do have a fairly high price on our beef. We couldn’t make it, and we had to ask, was it worth all the effort?”
It’s a question many American farmers ask themselves each year as the number of family farms in the U.S. continues to decline.
As for Deihl he says he’s sad to see MiBek close, but understands the choice. “Whole beef price per pound was $4.90 not including all the hard work and labor that went into breaking it down and not having enough customers to shell out coin to buy,” Diehl says. “They produce a great product, but the cost didn’t match the consumer demand.”
But for those loyal shoppers still wanting to buy MiBek product, there’s still some left. “We have some in our freezer We’ll be at a few farmers markets until we get pretty low.”
Until then, Worrell is resting and reflecting.
“This has been a wonderful experience with this farm. We’ve really achieved a lot of things. We achieved a great product and following and we know how it should be done. But the model we’re on with farmers market, it was seven days a week. I couldn’t go on any longer. It was tearing my health up and the health of my children,” he says. “We need to sit back and recover and reevaluate.”