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A ‘wild’ gamble —

By Staff | May 22, 2009

In the family's basement, Jolene and Kirk Pisel run their family store. One freezer and a dorm fridge are stocked with their farm beef that is processed at LeWright Meats in Eagle Grove. The smaller packaging allows the Pisels to better meet their customers' needs since some don't have the money or the space for a quarter or side of beef.

GILMORE CITY – Kirk Pisel has never been one to gamble in the past.

“He always told people he didn’t need to gamble,” said Kirk’s wife, Jolene, of her beef producer spouse. “He would say he gambled every time he walked out the door.”

But on Jan. 1, Kirk Pisel was feeling lucky.

On the way home from a meat locker that night, Jolene suggested to Kirk they open a store on their farm. A store in which they could sell her home-baked goods and the corn-fed beef they raise. Jolene Pisel said that it only made sense.

“We’ve sold a quarter or half of a beef to members of our community for years,” she said. “People seem to be really excited about what we’re trying to do. We’ve never been able to offer people less than a quarter of beef, and sometimes that’s too much money for a person to pay at once or they don’t have the freezer space for that quantity.”

Jolene Pisel packages her homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies beore opening up shop at 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 12. Jolene and Kirk Pisel opened JoKir's Wild, a direct-from-farm retail store. The Pisels sell their corn-fed farm-raised Angus beef and Jolene Pisel's home-baked breads, buns, noodles, cookies and rolls.

Their new farm-based store, JoKir’s Wild, fixed the problem by offering individual cuts of Pisel beef processed by LeWright Meats in Eagle Grove.

And it also made sense to promote their new beef-based retail store during May, National Beef Month. May 1 and 2 were the Open House for JoKir’s Wild housed in the lower-level of the Pisel’s home.

With one oven and two people, the Pisel’s whirled around a wild weekend.

“We sold more than 20 loaves of bread, 150 rolls and buns and 11 dozen cookies,” Jolene Pisel said. “We didn’t sleep that weekend.”

The Pisels admit they were blown away by the community support, which continues to grow with each passing week.

Jolene and Kirk Pisel have taken a gamble by opening JoKir's Wild, their direct-from-farm-to-retail store in rural Gilmore City. The community support of their endeavor has been overwhelming, the couple said, who opened their store on May 1. JoKir's Wild has filled shipment orders for Chicago, Ill; Omaha, Neb; California and Minnesota. During their open house, JoKir's Wild sold 11 dozen cookies, 20 loaves of bread and 150 rolls, as well as their beef sales.

“It’s a lot more than we expected,” Kirk Pisel said. “People that were buying from us before we were JoKir’s Wild have come back to see the new products. It’s pretty good.”

But, the quality provided by the Pisels is more than pretty good.

The family has always prided itself in the black Angus cross cattle they raise on their century farm. For decades, Kirk Pisel carefully chooses the 300 cows he will finish in the feedlot.

This ensures a premium product. The Pisels also feed the cattle 60 percent of the corn they harvest from their farm’s 600 acres along with silage.

“I basically shoot for consistency,” Kirk Pisel said. “You get what you pay for, and the cattle business is tough. I don’t see them before I get them.”

To maintain peace of mind, Pisel buys his cattle from a couple of colleagues. His business is also a process-verified program, which is a federal certification. Under this, Kirk practices age and source verification of his beef animals.

“This means we can trace every cow we raise and butcher back to its place of origin,” Jolene Pisel said. And if a shipment of cattle doesn’t meet Kirk Pisel’s high expectations, he’s not afraid to send them back.

“Since you see these animals every day for a hundred days, you want to look at them and say ‘look at those nice cows’,” he said. “Being selective helps the operation all the way around with the health of the animal to the end product. We want to do what we’re doing, right.”

To emphasize this, Pisel announced that JoKir’s Wild is going national. In a few short weeks, the Pisels have received meat orders from Chicago, Omaha, and the states of Minnesota and California, has requested JoKir’s Wild beef.

JoKir’s Wild is not only about selling beef though. Jolene wants to be a one-stop shop for families on the go.

“Our products are customer oriented,” Jolene Pisel said. “I want people to be able to pick up beef patties and the rolls for dinner.”

Jolene has gone so far as to make a meal-in-a-bag for her customers. The bag contains seasoning and spices for a roast.

“I know people are extremely busy,” she said, “and I thought it would be helpful to offer meal-plans, you know, to make their lives a little easier.”

Everyday she bakes homemade fresh rolls, bread, cookies and noodles. She’s up at 5 a.m. and neither she nor her oven rest until the shop opens at 3 p.m.

“I always sell my baked goods fresh,” Jolene said. “If something is a day old, I sell it for half price. If no one picks it up the second day, I give it away to someone in the community, like the school, our mechanic, churches.”

The business may not be making the Pisels lives any easier, but neither minds the extra work or time their fledgling enterprise may take. It’s not just their business, the Pisels stated, it’s their passion.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that to be successful you should follow something you do well and enjoy,” Jolene Pisel said. “I love what we do. I don’t care if we never strike it rich. I just want to have a good quality of life while we’re here doing what makes us happy.”

Contact Lindsey Ory by e-mail at lindsey.ory@hotmail.com.

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