October 24, 2018
By Marlee Moore
From left are Savannah, Kaiya, Darah and Tucker Lee with parents Julie and David. The family raises grass-fed and natural-finished beef on its Trinity Farms in Lee County.
When clients place an order with farmer David Lee, they’re not just stocking their freezer with Trinity Farms homegrown beef.
They’re chatting directly with the man who raises and markets natural-finished and grass-fed calves. It’s a perk the Lowndes County farmer said adds value to his Alabama-grown Angus.
“We sell a premium, local product,” said Lee, 44. “You’re getting good service from me. I’ll even load your freezer, if you want.”
Buffi Young of Harvest has dialed into Lee’s offer for over a decade.
“David’s business is reminiscent of small-town America where customer service is important,” Young said. “You also don’t have to buy the whole calf. You order what you need.”
Lee encourages customers to visit the farm and select calves for processing. It’s a farm-to-freezer-to-fork approach that keeps agriculture top of mind, said Julie, Lee’s wife of 18 years.
“They like that they’re dealing directly with David,” Julie said. “People say, ‘Oh, I just love your husband.’ Well, I love him, too!”
The Lees hit bulls-eye buying calves from a select cooperative of farmers. Calves reach about 800 pounds on two diet tracks — grass-fed and natural-finished.
“When you compare our beef to conventionally raised products from a big-box store, we might be more expensive,” Lee said. “But when you compare us to natural, grass-fed beef in the grocery store, we’re cheaper.”
Grass-fed calves are raised solely on pasture, while natural-finished calves are supplemented with corn, soybean hulls, peanut pellets and rice bran. Trinity Farms offers homegrown pork, too.
“Folks like natural-finished beef because it’s a natural product, it’s a little cheaper than grass-fed, and it’s good for families,” said Lee, who studied animal sciences at Auburn University. “Natural-finished beef has a more familiar flavor, whereas grass-fed beef is gamier.”
The Trinity Farms difference is a matter of taste — literally and figuratively.
“The first time I tasted their beef, I said it was the best meat I’d ever had,” said Young, a mom of four. “I like knowing how David is raising the animals and what he’s feeding them. Plus, I want to support his family.”
A robust website, word of mouth and a Facebook page invite customers to try Trinity Farms beef, but Lee said his best investment is search engine optimization.
“When someone Googles freezer beef, custom beef or local beef, I want Trinity Farms to show up,” said Lee, the Lowndes County Farmers Federation president and State Beef Committee member.
Facebook connected Bill Weldon to Trinity Farms, and in the seven years since, Lee helped the Madison resident zero in on ideal cuts for his family. Natural-finished ground beef, filets and stew beef fill his order, along with short ribs. “We’ll take all the short ribs you’ve got,” Weldon often says.
Weldon said buying from Lee is budget friendly and started family traditions, such as Christmas dinner centered on Trinity Farms filets.
“I think my biggest problem has been having a freezer big enough,” Weldon joked.
Lee began Trinity Farms in Madison County with his brother and father but moved south eight years ago to better serve customers, which span across Alabama into neighboring states. Though he farms alone, the name is still relevant with faith at its center.
“For years, we felt like we needed to move for the church and where farming would be best for us,” said Lee, an audio production volunteer at LifeChange Church in Greenville, where his brother-in-law is pastor. Julie volunteers, too, while homeschooling Savannah, 16; Kaiya, 13; Darah, 12; and Tucker, 6.
The move centralized Trinity Farms while reducing costs, since urban sprawl skyrocketed north Alabama land prices, and Lee already sourced calves farther south.
“We’re focused on what makes us profitable,” he said. “We’re a smaller, non-diverse farm now, but this is my full-time job, and Julie doesn’t work outside the home. Hopefully customers like that they’re investing in us as a farm. I like it when they call me their farmer.”
Learn more and access beefy recipes at tfcattle.com, or find Trinity Farms on Facebook.