Prairie Family Business Association's Annual Conference
Tim Meagher is a self-described city boy.
His wife, Megan, grew up visiting both sets of grandparents’ farms in northeast South Dakota on weekends.
Now, their business, Vanguard Hospitality, the restaurant group they co-own with Ken Bashore and Michael Gjernes, is changing the way the restaurant industry and agriculture intersect in South Dakota.
“I don’t have any background with farms, so this has been an incredible learning curve and learning experience,” Meagher said. “Our producers have helped me understand their world so that we can better connect and know what the obstacles are to do business together on a regular basis.”
While Vanguard restaurants — Grille 26, Morrie’s Steakhouse and Minervas in downtown Sioux Falls — have sourced some ingredients locally for years, a much more intentional approach has developed since the pandemic began. Motivated by a desire to support local and focus on mutual sustainability, Meagher began cultivating relationships.
Now, Vanguard has established ongoing partnerships with more than 20 local producers, providing everything from meat and produce to coffee and dairy products.
“We’re family-driven. We’re family-owned. And so it makes sense to bring family farms into the way we do business,” Megan Meagher said.
Growing up around farms, “you just understand the hours, the love that they put into it,” she continued. “Farmers can’t just pick up and leave. They’re giving everything to what they’re doing.”
They’re also dependent on reliable end markets for their products, which is where the partnerships with Vanguard restaurants offer needed support.
“We’re very excited to work with Vanguard,” said Jamie Lindemann, co-owner of L3 Co. in Alcester. “They’re always wanting to find quality product to serve to their guests at their restaurants, and they’re really open to different ideas of things we’re able to process with the Berkshire hog we offer.”
Stensland Family Farms provides everything from ice cream to cream for soup and sauces, including a Mornay sauce used in a signature Vanguard lasagna.
“The future for us as a family has been to be able to come up with unique products and partner with local partners,” co-owner Doug Stensland said.
For Hadrick Ranch, a fourth-generation family ranch near Faulkton, it’s a relationship built around beef. Vanguard has featured Hadrick beef in its Downtown Burger Battle entry for two years and frequently uses an entire carcass throughout the menus at its restaurants.
“It’s really like a switch flipped in our kids,” co-owner Troy Hadrick said. “Just getting to meet (the restaurateurs) and get behind the scenes and literally unload the beef out of the pickup and into the back door of the restaurant. You could see it in our kids, it was like: ‘Oh, this is why we did all that work.’”
Along the way, strong bonds have been formed between the family businesses.
“These relationships become personal because you know about each other’s families. We go out and visit the farms. We regularly get texts with pictures of the animals or the crops. And they’ve just become really good friends,” Meagher said.
“The big goal here is to connect with producers and bring in more community involvement and understanding of who those people are and how you can connect to producers who grow and raise high-quality products.”
The work of these and many other local producers will be shared – and sampled – at the upcoming Taste of Family Business event at 5:45 p.m. April 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown.
It’s part of the Prairie Family Business Association’s Annual Conference and is open to the public. Click here for information on tickets.
“The experience will be a fun social networking event. The menu is a real treat with items that all have a family story behind them,” executive director Stephanie Larscheid said.
“We’ll have family businesses from across the United States attending the conference, so we’ll have regional favorites such as bison, pork, beef, bacon, honey and more on the menu.”
Sample a variety of sliders, skewers, appetizer bites, dips and desserts from producers, including:
- Adee Honey
- Baker Boy
- Hadrick Ranch
- Lindy Land & Livestock
- Nielsen-Massey Vanilla
- Oh My Cupcakes!
- Stensland Family Farms
- Svec Farms
- Sweet Grass
- Wild Idea Buffalo
“When we bring people together for our conference, many of their interactions with other families occur over food. Our families love to learn the stories of other families and support them on their family business journey,” Larscheid said. “We’re here to help family businesses thrive through generations. Our annual family business conference creates a ‘we’re all in this together’ environment, and our Taste of Family Business extends that feeling into the food we’re enjoying.”
The Meaghers, who have connected many of their producer partners to the Prairie Family Business Association, said there’s a lot of benefit for ag-based family businesses.
“They do a really good job bringing everybody together, the networking piece that comes with that and the actual support and resources they offer to run your business,” Meagher said.
The Prairie Family Business Association knows farm families also need and want support in transitioning their business and development to their next generation of owners, Larscheid said.
“Some spectacular producer relationships have developed thanks to Prairie Family Business Association’s platform. Innovative, collaborative products have been created thanks to meeting through our conference, and new vendor relationships have also been established. We help build up the next generation of leaders, especially with farm families,” she said.
“They can continue the tradition and legacy of the generations before them, but they can make their own mark on the family business as well. They can work on sustaining the family farm for this generation and beyond. We’re here to help family farms achieve generational success.”
The Meaghers attended last year’s inaugural Taste event and said it was a powerful experience.
“The room was just excited to see all these families come together and tell their story,” Megan Meagher said.
This year, it has grown – and, like their producer relationships, likely will continue to expand.
“Hopefully, every time somebody gets to enjoy a bite of what we’ve raised, they say, ‘I can taste the generations,’” Hadrick said.
Ready to experience a Taste of Family Business for yourself? Click here to reserve your ticket.