The next chapter: Former teachers launch Hanappe Ranch in Castle Rock
Two former educators are sharing their story of making a change from teaching to farming.
Gregg Rappe, 61, and his wife, Kerry Hanifl, 44, decided to buy a beef farm in Castle Rock in January 2016.
The couple bought the Strachan family farm on land that was homesteaded in 1851. The family farmed the land more than 164 years. First it was an operating dairy farm before it became a beef farm 25 years ago.
The beef farm was renamed Hanappe Ranch, a combination of the new owners' last names. The couple is raising 120 head of cattle on organic, fresh grasses on 195 acres of land.
Farming in the blood
While they have no formal farming experience, the couple admit they have farming in their genes since their grandparents were farmers.
"We bought the family farm because the gentleman who owned it, his health was ailing and none of his family members wanted the farm," Rappe explained.
The past year and a half has been a fun adventure, both agree. The learning curve has been steep, yet they seem right at home tending to the land and caring for the cattle.
They want to educate the public on the benefits of eating organic, grass-fed beef.
"We have seven different species of grasses and alfalfa and that is all native and very nutritional, and they are never fed corn or any other supplements other than mineral supplements and water," Rappe said.
They hope to teach city and suburban youth about farming origins of their food.
"A lot of our youth do not understand where food comes from," Hanifl added.
Explaining the differences between grass-fed beef and conventional meat, Hanifl said cattle are designed to eat grass versus grain. Grass-fed beef has Omega-3 fats making it healthier like fish. Conventional beef carries more Omega-6 fats found more dominantly in grain-feed animals, Rappe said.
Besides the health benefits of eating organic, grass-fed beef, the couple argues their way of raising the cattle is more humane. Their cattle roam the grassy farmland.
Because both admit they used to be former vegetarians, Rappe said: "Meat is not a bad thing but it is the pesticides that make the crops grow and we have no fertilizers. We just use or manure and it is all natural."
Hanappe Ranch also sells Wagyu beef, like the beef from Japanese cows or Kobe beef that is imported. This year the ranch became 100 percent USDA certified as organic with the federal government.
Before opening Hanappe Ranch, the couple lived for two years in Thailand. Rappe took a three-year leave of absence from teaching at Dodge Middle School in Farmington and as a district swim coach.
The couple had looked at some ranches and farms before traveling overseas, but decided to live overseas to experience a different way of life.
Hanifl's mother grew up in India and her grandfather worked for the Department of Agriculture and taught agriculture at Pakistan and Nigeria.
Living in Mussoorie in the mountain foothills, the couple took their children on this adventure living overseas. Kerry taught mathematics and Gregg worked as a consultant and both looked forward to the adventure of living in a different culture.
"I organized and built a solar heat system for a fire pond and turned it into a swimming pool and gave lessons," Rappe said.
Everyday life seemed simpler because they did not need a car. They walked to gather fresh produce from the local bazaar or a guy with a cart on his back delivered other groceries such as cereal and canned foods.
"We decided we wanted something to do together but we had not settled on cattle," she said. Perhaps a hobby farm or flowers. The couple even explained how they had been former vegetarians.
While in India, the couple bought the Castle Rock Farm. Family checked out the land and the beef farm. If they did not buy the generational, century farm, perhaps the acres would have been broken up and sold to developers, Hanifl said.
Hanappe Ranch's grass-fed beef is butchered locally in Cannon Falls. They plan to sell the beef products next year at area farmers' markets. They are selling now their website, www.hanappeRanch.com.
The organic, grass-fed black Angus beef is now an entrée served on the menu at the new Bourbon Butcher restaurant in Farmington. The couple welcomes all business from locals, businesses and welcomes educational partnerships.
"Our goal is to make connections with students from local school districts and the University of Minnesota students and FFA students in Randolph, Northfield and Farmington," Rappe said.
This summer they grew a test garden of plants with hops so they can brew craft beer next year. They plan to call their craft beer operation called ABN or Awesome By Nature.
"Part of why we got into agriculture is we know how important it is to know where food comes from," Hanifl said.
The couple want to educate others about how important good food is and how Americans should pay closer attention to what food they put in their bodies.
"My brother says our animals live in the Taj Mahal in the way we have it setup with the pasture, with the water and the nutrients," Rappe said.
Next year Hanappe Ranch plans to open a storefront where customers can buy beef products in the 1860s original farmhouse on the property.
"Our animals are so relaxed and happy because we think a happy cow is happy, healthy food," Rappe said.
Who: Kerry Hanifl & Gregg Rappe
What: Owners of Hanappe Ranch — A 100 percent organic grass-fed beef farm in Castle Rock