Meet the Farmer: Carrie Richards of Richards Regenerative Beef
Even as a child, Carrie had a feeling she would end up running the family ranch. She just didn’t know it would happen in her 30s! The Richards family has been raising cattle on their 6500-acre property since 1941. Carrie Is the first Richards female to run the business and started transitioning part of that land to regenerative practices within a year after her arrival. With a small team (including her husband Dan, who quit his job of 20 years to support her vision), they have transitioned more than 3000 acres, and the proof is in the soil.
Regenerative agriculture creates a thriving ecosystem that sustains itself over time, uses less resources, and promotes biodiversity. The soil becomes rich and fertile, captures water instead of allowing it to run off, and is rich in nutrients. It takes time, effort, and attention, but the result is a thriving ranch that sequesters carbon and is better for people and the planet.
Richards Regenerative is certified by the American Grassfed Association and was the first beef company on the west coast to receive the Savory Institute’s Ecological Outcome Verified certificate.
It’s like her great uncle always told her father, “You take care of the grass, the cows will take care of themselves.” Life and the family business have come full circle. Only this time, Carrie is choosing to take care of the soil as well.
Recently, we caught up with Carrie to learn more about her journey and hear her advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Richards Regenerative?
After many years of research on pastured meats and clean eating, my siblings and I started this business in 2012, selling whole animals from our home ranch to family and friends.
We landed some great accounts and saw a real niche in the beef market for grass fed. So, my husband Dan and our two kids moved from Oakland back to the family ranch. We manage 350 cows, 25 hogs and 50 sheep holistically, making sure to take a “soil first” approach.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
All of them!? We had a recall of all beef in our old processor in 2014; we have had people receive beef they didn’t order; animals sent that weren’t ready; printed labels with a spelling error; we have done everything! But with every single obstacle, we have learned a tremendous amount of information – and how to handle these issues better in the future. There will never be a business without obstacles, but we feel that we are finally navigating through them with more grace than when we started.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I think the best advice, which we were given early on, is embrace your story! Also, reaching out to other leaders in the industry and entrepreneurs is such an asset. You never know, they may not respond – but they also might! We didn’t get here all by ourselves, we have had lots of mentors along the way.
04What’s on the horizon for Richards Regenerative?
Richards Regenerative is certified by the American Grassfed Association and is the first company on the west coast to be approved by the Savory Institute’s Ecological Outcome Verified program. This program trains ranchers in holistic management and monitors their land focusing on water cycle, carbon sequestration and ecosystem function. We see the support for regenerative agriculture and are looking to expand our program, taking on new producers and being a champion for the regenerative movement!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
Work/Life balance doesn’t really exist when managing a property with 425 animals on it! But we do the best we can. Those phone calls at sundown that you have cows in the neighbor’s yard will always happen. You pray for a rainstorm, and it tips over a huge tree in the road – it’s part of the gig! When it comes to the beef company, it is always something – from hauling, shipping, delayed freight, to a pandemic. We do our best to give employees time off they need, and to try and address issues before they become emergencies. Balance truly comes from communication, and we make that a priority.
We are thrilled that companies are finally looking for regenerative products and we are continuing to grow year by year because of this support. What inspires us is that regenerative is becoming a term people know, they ask us about, and you are starting to see it everywhere. There is more grant funding for properties to try regenerative practices like compost application and targeted grazing, and people are supporting ranchers and business owners like ours. We feel this is the way we should all be looking at managing lands, whether it’s a 400 square foot backyard or a 400-acre property. It all starts with the soil.
To learn more about regenerative agriculture and to see the ranch, check out Kiss the Ground’s documentary about Carrie, (Re)Generation.