Their beef is simply delicious. In my opinion as a professional chef and someone who's been around the cattle industry for over 20 years along with cooking professionally for much longer than that, to come upon a source for truly fantastic American grown beef has been a true pleasure. You know for me, it goes beyond just the product. It's the brand. It's the family and the life they lead in an effort to keep food on our tables and our bellies full.
Ranching is brutal. It's at the mercy of the economy, the weather and variables most would be crushed to endure on a day to day basis. It's just simply mad respect for those who do it to nourish us. The gratitude I have is beyond these words, so let me introduce you to the Robinson's of Robinson Ranch, a 1st generation cattle ranching family who went all in. I had the chance to recently interview BJ and Stephanie for a one-on-one conversation to let you get to know these salt-of-the-earth good people. So let's get to chatting!
JILL: Where are you located?
THE ROBINSONS: The ranch is located just outside of Newcastle, NE, in the very north east corner of the state.
JILL: Tell us a few things that are special about your location/typography.
THE ROBINSONS: We are nestled in the wind-blown Loess Hills of Northeast Nebraska in a part of Nebraska known as the Outlaw Trail. Outlaws such as Jesse James, Doc Middleton, and Kid Wade roamed and hid in the hills from here to as far west as Valentine. God’s beauty surrounds us here and truly makes it a paradise for our family and cows. From our hills we look over the Missouri River valley and the South Dakota prairie.
JILL: How long have you been ranching? How did you get into ranching?
THE ROBINSONS: Although both BJ and I have been involved in agriculture in one facet or another for most of our lives, Robinson Ranch got its start in 2015. For years, BJ and I (Stephanie) had prayed about raising our children in a place with faith, family, and livestock. In 2014 God presented us the blessing and opportunity to purchase our small ranch from a family friend, followed by a large group of heifers. This spurred our dreams to become reality. At that time both BJ and I were working full-time jobs in industrial construction and raising three children. In the spring of 2016 calves were being born, work was busy as ever and we found out we were expecting our second child together, so we made the decision for me to become a full-time ranch wife and mom.
JILL: What breed of cattle do you run? How did you select/choose that breed?
THE ROBINSONS: We raise both black and red angus cattle. We have spent the last few years working to improve our herd genetics with fantastic mothers that produce smaller framed, easy fleshing calves that make high quality beef. We started the ranch with a pen full of black angus heifers as they (angus cattle) are what was prominent in our area. As time went we started adding red angus to our herd. They have proven to be very docile and fantastic mothers. Now it is a mix of both black and red as we have culled some and added others while improving our herd.
JILL: What are a few things you wish non-Ag people understood about your profession?
THE ROBINSONS: I wish folks could experience the feelings that come from the ranching life. Disappointment on Christmas morning when you are opening presents with your family and get a phone call that your cows are standing in someone else's front yard. The peace and calm you feel drinking the first cup of coffee watching the sunrise over the hill casting the first glow across the calving pasture. The feelings of relief that come when you are dripping in sweat and your arm muscles aching from pulling a calf that is now laying at your feet sloping wet and weak but alive. The heart break of telling your child their favorite cow isn't with calf this year so she won't stay. The joy a three day old calf running and bucking across the field brings. The tiredness and accomplishment after fixing fence all day in the summer heat. It's not all a highlight reel or a Norman Rockwell painting of the American dream. It's hard, it's raw, it sobering, it's joy, love, and pride, it's faith, hope and dreams all rolled into one thing.
There is a ton of misinformation out there about animal agriculture and how food is raised. We are an open book to those who ask and actually seek the answers.
JILL: What’s your favorite time of year for ranch work and why?
THE ROBINSONS: My favorite time of year to ranch is a tough question to answer. I could start by saying I love spring calves and all the beauty and wonder of Gods' creation that is fresh in the spring. Summer offers an opportunity to slow down a little and truly bring the kids out to the pasture. This gives them the chance to pick their favorite calves and watch them grow. We usually end up with a few that finish the season with creative names from the minds of small children. The past year's favorite were ducky, marshmallow, dude and pirate. Fall is a beautiful time to ranch as the weather cools down, I enjoy a crisp horseback ride to gather pairs. This is where you can start to see the fruits of your years labor. Winter brings some hardship as the days can get pretty cold, but the cows are usually content to graze the cornstalks and don't require a ton of time. So I don't know that I can honestly answer what season is my favorite. I believe God has given me a love for the animals and has shown me how beautiful this life is no matter the season.
JILL: What’s your least favorite time of year for ranch work and why?
THE ROBINSONS: My least favorite season isn't a season per se, I dislike the end of each season. The end of spring when everything has calves and it's a crazy hustle to get them on summer grass. The end of summer as those pastures are grazed down and cows start eye balling the green corn in the next field. The end of fall as we scramble to get cows worked and on to stalks. The end of winter when cows come home and baby watch begins. We are constantly keeping an eye on what's next and where we are going, there is a continuing flow of movement and hustle at the end of each passing season.
JILL: Do you raise any other livestock?
THE ROBINSONS: On the Robinson Ranch our focus is kids and cows, but we have acquired a passel of horses, mules and ponies, a few dogs and of course some ranch cats.
JILL: Do you use horses and cattle dogs to help in your ranching activities?
THE ROBINSONS: Our ranch uses a bit of everything to keep things flowing. I have my dog Sue who works with me every day. We use pickups, a side-by-side or the horses based on the work to do and the location. Some of the pastures we have are too steep or tree covered to use anything but a horse efficiently. Others it's just as easy to use the pickup.
JILL: What’s unique about your ranching operation that you’d like others to know?
THE ROBINSONS: Our ranch is a first-generation ranch. We didn't grow up raising beef cattle but this is where our heart is.
JILL: What’s your favorite cuts of beef?
THE ROBINSONS: For BJ a rib steak or tenderloin. For Stephanie, beef heart, ribeye or filet.
JILL: What’s your favorite beef recipe preparation?
THE ROBINSONS: There are so many to choose from. BJ loves to slow-cook on a smoker or charcoal grill a steak. Truthfully my favorite is one someone else cooks for me. But my favorites are hearty comfort foods. Stroganoff, beef and barley soup.
JILL: Give us an idea of a ‘typical day in the life’.
THE ROBINSONS: A typical day in the life, we usually start around 6 am getting kids ready for school and assessing what the day has to offer. Beef cattle get fed their ration and any stock at the house gets a once over making sure all is well. Depending on the season I pack up the kids that are home and we check cows on grass or corn stalks. Then take care of any other daily tasks for cattle and ranch work, church, household duties like groceries or school functions. When kids get home from school we're just like any other family, chores, homework, supper and family time before bed. Rinse and repeat. This schedule changes some as summer comes, both BJ and I are on our local rodeo committee so quite a bit of time is spent at the rodeo grounds in the summer.
JILL: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
THE ROBINSONS: Free time... haha few and far between. We enjoy spending time riding our horses, hitching the team of mules, family board games, and the kids really love going to the pool.
JILL: What do you love most about ranching and the lifestyle?
THE ROBINSONS: The things we love most about ranching and the lifestyle is the values and lessons it brings to our family. For us ranching is not about becoming millionaires, its about honoring God, stewarding the land we love, producing a product we are proud of; all while doing work we enjoy and passing these things down to the next generation.
JILL: What would you be doing if you didn’t decide to be a rancher?
THE ROBINSONS: If we weren't Ranchers things would look a bit different. Currently BJ still works for a mechanical contractor so I imagine that's what he would be doing. I would probably be working somewhere local or as a stay at home mom. It's hard to imagine doing anything else though.
For those looking for a DIRECT SOURCE to purchase American-raised beef, the Robinson's have done an incredible job of navigating the process of making their beef available to ship nationwide.
JILL: What products do you sell direct?
THE ROBINSONS: Robinson ranch offers portioned beef (whole, half and quarter) bundles, Individual cuts and beef sticks.
JILL: How can others find you online and on social media?
THE ROBINSONS: You can find Robinson Ranch online at https://www.