The word “dinner” pops up in a passing conversation. Jody Reyer hears it, lassoes that couple with a friendly hail and pulls them to his Reyer Farms booth to expand their conversation and menu—possibly with his beef — at the Mississippi Farmers Market.
Across the aisle, Greg Lott’s sizzling slices of beef sausage work the same magic for Remington-Lott Farms, reeling folks in for a one-on-one chat with the man behind the beef.
Reyer Farms and Remington-Lott Farms are on opposite sides of the aisle at the Mississippi Farmers Market, just off High Street in Jackson, but they are working the same avenue of locally grown beef. Both are members of Genuine MS, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce brand showcasing products created or produced by the state’s farmers and entrepreneurs.
The two are apt to identify more as colleagues than competitors, joking that they need to do a better job distinguishing themselves. Slightly similar R— Farm names have led newbies to mistake one for the other at times.
“It’s friendly and healthy,” Reyer describes the competition. “I feel like both of us are doing a great job at trying to showcase a Mississippi product.”
It’s working. The market for local beef is steadily expanding, Lott says. “It just takes a while for people to know you. It’s a lot about a friend telling a friend.”
It’s also about farmers telling customers about their cattle, breeds, cuts, feeding practices, cooking suggestions, aging and more. That puts buyers in closer touch with their burgers and steaks than ever before. The proximity matters to farm-to-table aficionados, local sourcing proponents and anyone who wants a personal connection with their food’s provenance.
“The cool thing about the farmers market — the people coming there truly crave local. They crave healthy,” says Kelsey Keenum, Remington-Lott Farms general manager.
Remington-Lott Farms in Madison County started in 2011, bringing together the Rowell family (the Remington name, from a collection of bronzes) with Greg Lott’s substantial cattle heritage and know-how. The Mississippi Farmers Market was its first retail outlet, starting in 2015. “People really were interested and wanting to purchase it throughout the week,” Keenum says, and their freezer trailer/tent setup in a parking lot soon gave way to their first store, in Gluckstadt. A location in Flowood followed, then Clinton and now one on Old Canton Road in Jackson, too.
Remington-Lott’s 1,400 to 1,500 head of cattle, all Angus-based, are born and raised in Madison County. They’re grass-fed and free range, with supplemental feed to finish. Genealogy that stretches back generations provides a scientific background for improvement. “We spent about three years just building a good, premium genetic background before we ever sold a piece of meat,” Keenum says. “The marbling and the flavor, as the years go by, gets better and better.”
Reyer Farms is a smaller outfit in the local beef business, with a herd of about 300 live head, most of them in Lena and some in Yazoo County. Reyer Farms started in 2011 and quickly grew a reputation for terrific tomatoes.
Their beef business started with cattle they bought to clear some rough ground and keep brush down at their farm. A purple speckled steer looked “real pretty” one day, Reyer recalls — “real tasty” in a farmer’s eyes — and that proved to be the case. So tasty, in fact, it set a new path. “We’ll just raise our own product.”
Beef joined their mix, with a small start. Their breed is Pineywoods cattle, descended from Spanish cattle brought to Mississippi and the Gulf Coast region by Spanish explorers, starting in the 16th century. “Our herd started with what we could find” of Pineywoods cattle — a rare breed native to Mississippi and Southeast and well-adapted to the climate and terrain.
“When we were picking a breed, they really stood out for working with nature instead of against it,” Reyer says. The cattle eat a broader scope of forage than average grass-fed cows and the beef, he says, has “a very clean, very distinct, almost luxurious flavor.”
Reyer’s beef business has grown “astronomically,” he says — to the point they dropped pork to focus on it, and cut tomato production in half (selling just to Derek Emerson’s restaurants). Retail outlets are the Mississippi Farmers Market and reyerfarms.com website.
Reyer Farms and Remington-Lott Farms are each building a niche with their Mississippi beef. “The thing is, we make each other better,” Keenum says. “We encourage and help each other build off each other’s success.”
If one has a question, the other helps out, and the same with product. “We want what’s good for the customer,” Reyer says. “If I don’t have it, I’ll send them to him. If they don’t have it, they’ll send them to me.
“Neither one of us could fulfill the demand for beef in the state of Mississippi. There’s plenty of market to go around.”
For more information on Remington-Lott Farms and Reyer Farms, visit their profiles at GenuineMS.com.