Ten years ago, Windy N Ranch was more of a concept than a concrete business plan. But through hard work and dedication, the Newhall family of Ellensburg, Wash., has turned their 800 acres into a lucrative — and highly rewarding — venture.
The diversified, certified organic meat ranch off U.S. Highway 97 started out as an investment for former Bellevue, Wash., residents Greg and Laurie Newhall, who purchased the land in the early 2000s with the long-term goal of building a residential development.
The economic downturn forced the couple to reconsider their plans, so they started farming hay and eventually bought some cows to graze in the pastures. The Newhalls discovered that there was a growing market for grass-fed beef in the Northwest, so they started looking to expand the business beyond raising cows and farming hay.
Their son, Brad, and his wife, Lisha, moved to Ellensburg from Las Vegas in 2008 to help grow the business. Today, Windy N Ranch is home to nearly 900 meat animals — cows, sheep, goats, pigs, turkeys and chickens — on 250 acres of certified organic pastures. The rest of the land is reserved for a potential expansion of their flocks and herds.
“There’s been a big wave toward food options that are cleaner and more humane,” said Brad Newhall, 40, the primary ranch hand at Windy N who also cares for peacocks, alpacas, llamas and dogs (five Anatolian shepherd/Great Pyrenees mixes).
“More people nowadays want to know exactly where their food comes from, so we have created a niche working directly with our customers, either by going to farmers' markets or inviting them for a tour.”
Windy N Ranch is committed to producing nutritious and flavorful meats and eggs while upholding the highest standards in animal husbandry, holistic ranching and the humane treatment of animals. In addition to being certified organic, the business also adheres to Animal Welfare Approved guidelines.
“Those requirements help set us apart,” Newhall said, adding that most ranchers don’t sell their products directly to market because going through a commercial operation is more efficient and requires no customer interaction. While the personal approach is more time-consuming, the family has come to realize that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
“People who have gotten to know us and our products are so appreciative of the work we’re doing, and that means a lot to us,” Newhall said. “We feel like we’ve been able to establish a special bond with our customers.”
Now with two young children, Brad and Lisha Newhall don’t attend farmers' markets as often as they once did. They mostly work from home, with Brad taking care of the fields and Lisha managing the sales and marketing side. She also works part time as a magazine editor, while Greg and Laurie Newhall remain involved but on a more limited basis.
Fortunately, the family has developed relationships with others in the Northwest healthy eating community who help Windy N maintain its brand visibility.
“There are a lot of people who care about the clean food movement, and when we couldn’t go to the farmers markets anymore, they stepped in to help us,” Brad Newhall said. “Our friends have really helped us keep our name out there.”
Newhall, who spent the first half of his career working a desk job, said he never envisioned himself working on a ranch before moving to Ellensburg 11 years ago. The hours are long and the work is physically demanding, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve grown to love the lifestyle,” he said. “I’m on my feet all day, moving from one task to the next, and I rarely get to leave. But I enjoy the challenge — and the rewards.”
Learn more about this growing family business at windynranch.com.