Audrain County farmer Erica Benoit

Audrain County farmer Erica Benoit sells meat, eggs and milk directly to consumers. She says they appreciate the taste and quality, as well as being able to see where their food comes from and ask questions. 

CENTRALIA, Mo. — The sounds of farm life were on display on an early autumn day at the Benoit farm in Audrain County. These included kids playing in the yard, chickens clucking, cattle swishing their tails in the shade, and pigs oinking while they gathered in the mud.

Erica Benoit says that idyllic farm setting and livestock visible outside is what a lot of their customers are looking for. She and her family operate the Benoit Family Farmstead, which sells meat and other farm products directly to consumers. They sell their pork in a variety of ways.

“We sell pork by the whole and halves,” she says. “We also have some individual cuts.”

They also sell eggs, raw milk and chicken, and Benoit says they are getting ready to start selling beef.

The Benoits have an old-fashioned approach to raising their pigs, which have access to a building and an outdoor pen area. She describes them as “dirt-raised,” and says it is simply the way her family prefers raising pigs, and they have found customers who would like to buy pork raised that way.

“This was my grandparents’ farm,” Benoit says. “The way my grandparents would’ve raised them is the way we’re going to raise them.”

She says their customers are looking for taste and quality, as well as being able to see where their food comes from.

“I think it’s a mix of things,” Benoit says. “We get a lot of compliments on the taste. I have people contact me to ask about the farm. We’re on Facebook and people can see what we’re doing.”

She says a lot of their customers hear about them through word of mouth. They also have a website, www.benoitfamilyfarmstead.com.

Benoit says there was an increase in the farm’s chicken and pork sales this year during the coronavirus pandemic, in particular when grocery stores saw supply challenges during the outbreak. She says the direct sales to customers helped them connect with agriculture.

“A lot of people are like, I remember my grandparents doing this,” she says.

Another aspect of their business is sharing recipes and cooking ideas. Benoit says this was especially important to people as many of them looked to cook more meals at home during the pandemic.

“We do share stuff that we cook at our house for supper on Facebook,” she says. “We pretty much just focus on family midweek quick recipes. I’m a busy mom of three, and I know some nights you just need to get supper on the table.”

Benoit and her husband, Jared, have three kids, and she is pregnant with a fourth. She appreciates that she can be on the farm with her family, and also help share information about raising livestock.

“I like that it’s family oriented,” she says. “The kids are involved in everything we do. We’re able to meet new people and educate people on the way it used to be raised, and how we feel it should be raised.”

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.