On the grand scale of possibility how likely do you find it that a northern Michigan Ranch will draw inspiration from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
Odd as it may sound, it may not be a stretch to draw the comparison. Mr. Johnson’s global hit-smashing multi-billion-dollar production machine began with the seven bucks he had in his pocket and grew from there due to dedication, dreams, and just a little good fortune. J-J Cattle Company is a heck of a long way from Hollywood (2,371.9 miles to be exact…thanks Google) and we are closer to cow chips than big checks. However, we do share Mr. Johnson’s hunger, penchant for crazy dreams, and a gratitude for humble beginnings. He started with $7 bucks and unmatched hustle; we started with two cows and a wild, absurd calling.
In 2002 our family of four had just moved from one end of the I-75 interstate to the other; Jacksonville, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Up and coming suburbs to turn of the century farmhouse (that’s code for old, not necessarily “charming” by the way). Beaches and surf for fields and pines. Eternal summer for (almost) eternal winter.
And we decided to raise cows. Well, not quite. First it was chickens and horses and pigs. Then came the occasional steer, a heifer or two. Unwanted dairy calves, odd-ball mixes. These first few creatures were just enough to provide for our own family through the lean times or to sell back to local ranchers and farmers. Never enough to hope for that illusive thing called “profit”.
But the seed was planted all the same. It was that seed that was sparked to life in an old church pew sometime in 2008. There Russ Jones, or Dad as I prefer to call him, envisioned a way to give back, not from a place of security and success, but simply because it was what he was being called to do. Believer’s Beef was born.
Our mission through B.B. is to come along side those who are striving, serving, and sacrificing. We seek to serve the servants, care for those who are caring for others, and provide a place to retreat and recharge. 10% of our total hanging weight is donated each and every year to various groups and families around Michigan. From honoring our servicemen and women, to supporting families with adopted and fostered children, it is our great joy to care for these folks in some small way as they in turn care for others.
And in the beginning our gifts were indeed small. But, like Mr. Rock…err, Mr. Johnson, we buckled down and stepped up. We followed the vision and let closed doors guide us, not stop us, to the path we are meant to be travelling. The dream didn’t stop with Believer’s Beef but also the hope that this first-generation ranch could somehow beat the incredible odds against it and make it as a thriving family business and a community ministry.
Fast forward to 2020. J-J ranch is now located near Wolverine, MI. Yup, like the mascot. And yes, we are ranching in the woods of Northern Michigan; yes, we know that’s considered odd. By this point “odd” is our specialty. Our two motley cows have morphed into a herd of almost 40 Corriente cattle. This year’s calf crop will see our numbers jump to closer to 60 critters and we don’t plan to stop there. There are dozens of challenges to overcome but we only must take a moment to reflect on the perfect absurdity of our existence at all to realize that these bumps in the road are nothing compared to the hurdles already behind us.
We are reminded daily of our calling and through the discouragements and the setbacks we focus on the purpose behind our passion. In 2019 alone we are projected to donate over 1,000 pounds of beef back to our community. And as mind-blowing as that feels in this moment, we aren’t even close to finished yet.
Most likely, the wild success of a global brand such as The Rock’s is not a similarity we will ever share (though can you imagine how many cows we could raise??) and that fact sits just fine with us. Following this calling we have been given has brought us joy we would have never expected and connections we could have never conceived.
Sure, we lose more sleep during calving season than parents of triplets, and okay, maybe our sanity is questioned by our accountant (regularly), but at the end of every day we know we are building into something bigger than ourselves. Every healthy calf kicking up his heels on a summer’s night, every steady and stout ranch horse doing his job with purpose, and every smiling face that digs into J-J Ranch beef is worth it.
These traditional ways are certainly not the easiest. But we aren’t here for what is easy, we are here for what is right. And grass-fed, grass-finished cattle raised in a low stress environment and cared for with respect just seems like the right thing to do.
So come on by, sit a spell; walk through the pasture with us and check on the herd. With your support Believers Beef becomes more than just a wild idea and J-J Cattle Company more than just a crazy dream. And if Mr. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ever needs some out-of-this world beef to fuel those muscles and movies…well, let’s just say I know a guy.