ASHTON – For Denny and Edy Pfeiffer of rural Ashton, something good came out of the COVID-19 pandemic – a brand new country store with an old-style feel to it.
The Pfeiffers live at 2511 Reynolds Road, 8 miles southeast of Ashton, and farm about 3,800 acres. They raise corn, soybeans and hay, as well as about 400 head of cattle.
It was when taking some of those cattle to market a year ago the Pfeiffers saw a need for a change in the way they do business.
“We sold some cattle a year ago, and we took quite a loss on it because of the pandemic,” Denny said. “The workers in the processing plant were sick and they didn’t want our cattle, but they were big enough they had to go somewhere. We got to thinking after that maybe we should start trying to market our own beef.”
They’ve lived on Reynolds Road for 10 years, and next to the house was an old machine shed full of, in Denny’s words, “stuff,” left over from the previous owner, as well as items the Pfeiffers stored there. They decided this shed and its contents had to go.
“Edy put it on Facebook and Marketplace, and I thought, ‘Well, if we can sell this stuff, we can probably sell beef,’” Denny said.
“A lot of this stuff, we probably would have junked. People came from Elgin. People came from Belvidere. People came from all over and bought this stuff. We didn’t get rich off of it, but we got something out of what we thought was nothing.”
Once the corn was planted last spring, they tore down the shed and had Ross Construction of Ashton build Pfeiffer Farms Fresh Market. They couldn’t be happier with the result.
“Sometimes you build stuff and it didn’t turn out like you wanted, but this did,” Denny said.
Three or four times a month, Denny takes cattle and hogs to Johnson Processing in Chadwick. Some are for private sales, for people who have specially ordered a quarter or half a beef, while others are to stock the meat case at Pfeiffer Farms Fresh Market.
A wide variety of beef and pork products are available.
“Three weeks ago that was a steer,” Denny said, pointing to his meat case. “That’s how fresh the stuff is.”
Fresh meat is only part of what the Pfeiffers offer at their store, however. There are eggs; honey from a producer, Metzger Meadows, in Rochelle; cheese from farmers Todd Aves and Brian Gerloff, near Belvidere; baked goods from Sandra Cargill in Franklin Grove; firewood from Richard Delp, a Lanark farmer; dog treats from Diggity Dawg Bakery in Dixon; CBD products from local hemp farmer Mark Peters; soaps and lotions from Toni Larimore in Paw Paw; knitted and crocheted items from Lisa Anderson, also in Paw Paw; and vintage soda made with real sugar.
There also will be chickens in about 8 weeks; fresh flower bouquets from Wylee Flower Farm in Dixon by mid-June; and pumpkins in the fall.
“We decided we wanted people to come here for more than just beef, and we’re finding out people appreciate local, fresh products,” Denny said. “We’ve found that out the first three weekends here.”
Pfeiffer Farms Fresh Market opened April 8. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
In the summer, when local produce becomes available, they plan to open from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Thus far, it’s been a hit.
“There’s been a lot of community support,” Edy said. “Every weekend we’re a little busier.”
Edy will be the main person in the shop, and she’ll be learning on the job. For instance, she had never used a cash register before. As it turned out, the cash register the Pfeiffers bought came from the same company that supplied their calibrated scale, and Edy has received training on how to operate them properly.
“I’m learning every day,” she said with a smile. “This is all new.”
Denny, 68, has no immediate plans to stop farming. He began helping his father on the farm nearly six decades ago, and went out on his own more than four decades ago. Farming still will fill a lot of his work hours, but he also will relish his time in the new family store, greeting customers at the front door with a smile and a handshake.
“I love farming, but as you go through you think, ‘Boy, if you could only sell your own product, you could get so much more.’ That’s what we’re finding out,” he said.
“When we’re selling stuff, we can give the customers a good deal, and we get a good deal ourselves because we’re cutting the middleman out. It is more work for us, I understand that, but it’s fun work. To me, farming is fun. Now, the last three years when it’s been raining all of the time, that hasn’t been fun, but for the most part, farming is fun for me.
“This here is also fun. When people come in and you can make them happy, like, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect this,’ that’s fun.”
Find Pfeiffer Farms Fresh Market on Facebook to learn more.