Ethical Farming: How the Brandt Family Farm Is Reshaping the Landscape
When you ask Ohio native Joe Brandt about growing up on the family farm, he’ll undoubtedly mention the copious amounts of “hard work” and the early mornings spent waking up to the crowing of roosters. But despite any challenges, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else—it’s helped shape him into the trailblazer he is today.
Through his father’s mentorship, the discipline he cultivated on this family’s 1,300-acre property, the adoption of innovative farming concepts, and a fruitful partnership with Coleman Natural, Joe has played a crucial role in forging the success of Brandt Swine Farms.
Born into a Lineage of Farmers
Coming from five generations of farmers, you could say Joe’s deep-seated passion for farming runs through his DNA with a family origin story that traces back to 1901. This is when Joe’s great-great-grandfather opened the doors to Brandt Swine Farms—situated in the quaint town of Versailles, Ohio….population, 2,700. With time, the torch was passed down to Joe’s grandfather, then his father, Tim—the true definition of “multigenerational farming.”
Working on the farm from a young age, Joe witnessed how his grandfather and father always strived to prioritize ethical farming before making decisions. “Their perseverance through the difficult times–making the right decisions as well as keeping humble through the good times–while still keeping family a priority, is something that I also strive for and follow as I lead the family business,” he says.
“What we do takes a lot of animal husbandry, or care for the animals. We keep an eye on them, we know them and it results in happier pigs and overall better meat. It’s certainly not the easy way, but it’s important not only to my family but to today’s consumer.”
Coming to a Personal Crossroads…Finance or Farming?
While his father managed the farm, Joe spent most of his childhood either attending school, playing football, or competing in wrestling matches—all while lending a helping hand on the family farm in his spare time.
“I grew up a mile or half a mile away from my grandma and grandpa on the same farm,” Joe explains. “So we were always really, really close to each other. And my dad, probably the most supportive person in the world, has always pushed me to work my hardest, get good at something, and stick with it.” Joe says that the “number one thing in his eyes is family,” which is why the Brandt Swine Farm has always been so tight-knit.
Joe also mentions that his father always encouraged him to spread his wings, advocating for personal development through new experiences. Even though Joe knew the inner workings of the family farm like the back of his hand, deep down, he recognized that his father was right. In order to be 100% certain that farming was his destiny, he needed to step away from the “grounds of familiarity.”
Eventually, Joe made the bittersweet decision to leave Brandt Swine Farms post-high school graduation in 2011, to pursue his MBA in Finance.
Installing “Farming 2.0” Technology
After pursuing his degree, Joe thought a career in coaching would maybe be his next move, but inevitably, “the family farm and the legacy” lured him back in. Needless to say, he has zero regrets about it.
Today, Joe runs the entire finishing side, mill facility, and operations of Brandt Swine Farms, which has allowed him to make calculated investments for the long-term success of the farm. He also points out that he’s always seeking ways to improve the farm, naturally following the Brandt family legacy.
“Coming out of college, my goal was to get as vertically integrated as possible to try to control most aspects within the farm,” Joe says. “We are a farrow-to-finish operation. So we control what we’re putting in the feed and all aspects of the whole growth cycle of the pig.”
One big change he already implemented was importing 360 farrowing crates from Europe, which opens up to a full eight-by-eight pen for sow during pregnancy. Joe also explains that his family chose to remove all breeding stalls and instead, establish group housing with an electronic sow feeding system.
So how does this work exactly? Each animal is set up with an electronic ear tag, which allows the family to closely monitor feed intake in real time, while making critical and timely feed adjustments.
“[Through this technology] we can see if a sow might be a little too skinny and then bump up her feed 10 to 15 percent,” Joe says. “This innovation has improved our ability to care for our pigs and increase production. This technology is phenomenal.”
Why Remaining a Mid-Size Farm Is Critical
Even though technology makes it easy for any company to rapidly grow, Joe explains that there’s a definite sweet spot when it comes to scaling. Needless to say, Joe and his family have mutually agreed to not pursue the “commercialized” route—simply so they can oversee quality control and ensure that animal welfare is always a top priority.
“How do you ensure your animals are raised humanely and crate-free? I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why my dad decided to go to the medium size, instead of bigger is better.” Joe says.
How Coleman Natural Supported Joe’s “Smart” Expansion
In 2013, Joe and his father Tim made the decision to partner with Coleman Natural—a partnership that has since elevated the Brandt family’s long-standing approach to sustainability. For Joe, the Coleman partnership has allowed Brandt Swine Farms to grow in a “smart” way—while staying true to its foundational values.
For example, since collaborating with Coleman, the Brandt operation converted to a crate free system in both gestation and farrowing periods for their hogs. This impactful change completely eliminated the use of antibiotics. Also with the guidance of Coleman Natural, they transitioned to a vegetarian-fed diet for their hogs.
“I wanted to really start thinking about preparing the farm for the future, for future generations, and overall sustainability of the business. I wanted to build a relationship with a company that was already doing the things I wanted to transition to. By joining Coleman Natural Foods, I felt confident we would be prepared for a sustainable future.”
Tim Brandt, Owner of Brandt Family Farms
Joe describes that “everything is kind of interlinked,” meaning both companies truly care about animal wellbeing and providing for their employees and families. The symbiotic partnership has flourished over the past decade, as both Coleman Naturals and Brandt Swine Farm focus on what the consumers want—which is 100% transparency into where their meat is coming from. The Brandt family is also passionate about upholding Coleman standards— never using hormones, antibiotics, or artificial ingredients and instilling a crate-free environment.
Joe’s Vision for Brandt Swine Farms
Ever since Joe made the decision to fully immerse himself in the family business for the long haul, he’s been adamant about pushing boundaries and adopting new technologies—all while ensuring his animals are raised humanely with the utmost care. In Joe’s eyes, this is the exact “formula for greatness” when it comes to farming 2.0.
And although no one can predict what the future holds, Joe confidently expresses that his vision for the family farm is intimately tied to the partnership with Coleman Natural. He explains “keeping that relationship is extremely important to him,” especially when it comes to growing—but in a smart way, that will always honor the Brandt Family legacy.
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