Next Meeting Sept 24 – Laura Freeman
September 24 – Laura Freeman, founder Laura’s Lean Beef
Laura Freeman took the reins at her family farm and founded the Laura’s Lean Beef company in 1985. Back then consumers had begun to shy away from beef due to concerns that it was high in fat and cholesterol. Laura set out to find a solution to allow health conscious consumers, like herself, to continue to eat beef in good conscience. Laura committed not only to raising beef that was lean, but also without the use of antibiotics or added growth hormones…EVER.
Though Laura has since retired, Laura’s Lean continues to practice the high standards she set forth and has expanded product offerings to include turkey, chicken and jerky. Please visit their website for more information.About Laura Freeman Founder of Laura’s Lean Beef Company and Mt. Folly Enterprises, as well as a well known innovator, Laura Freeman began her career in agriculture in the fall of 1981.
After graduating summa cum laude from Duke University in 1978, Freeman was a newspaper reporter before she returned to her family’s farm, a Clark County feeder cattle and tobacco operation. She, her husband, and new child faced difficult times when the 1983 drought was followed by the 1986 dairy buy-out, landing a one-two punch on the Kentucky farm community.
Freeman’s mother was in need of the income from the tobacco crop in the 80’s, and has “kept” the tobacco money ever since. Laura’s husband at that time was no farmer, so she had to figure out a way to make ends meet. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, in 1985 she founded the Laura’s Lean Beef Company, raising and selling beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.
As CEO of the company for 23 years, she developed and built the brand, traveling on business in every state in the union except Alaska, and in Canada. Given that the production cycle for naturally raised beef is approximately 2 years, her work life was absorbed balancing cattle supply to retail sales and developing and testing ways to move retail cuts profitably, in balance. All the while she built the brand, making it the most valuable brand in the natural beef arena. The company, with sales of $135,000,000, was sold to Meyer Natural Food in 2008.
An accomplished equestrian, in 2005 Freeman had a horseback fall that changed her life. It took Freeman years to recover, and she considers this her greatest accomplishment. Hemp from CBD was central to her come back.
Now, Freeman owns and runs Mt. Folly Farm LLC, one of the largest organic farms in Kentucky. She founded and is President/CEO of Mt. Folly Enterprises, the company that owns Laura’s Hemp Chocolates, Homestead Alternatives Hemp CBD products, and Wildcat Willy’s Distillery.
Freeman was a founding member of the Community Farm Alliance, and traveled to Europe, countries of the former Soviet Union, and Central and South America through agriculture programs funded by the Kellogg Foundation. In 2008 she was elected to the Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame.
She has served on the administrative council (the governing body) of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, and is a fellow of the Donella Meadows Institute, a board member of the newly-formed Kentucky Organic Hemp Cooperative, and a member of the Policy Committee of the Organic Farmer’s Association.
Laura’s latest project, in addition to her duties as the CEO of Mt. Folly Enterprises, is the research and development of a carbon sequestration program on Mt. Folly Farm. She understands the extreme importance to act now on climate change, by stopping the carbon pumps, and supporting the carbon sinks. She hopes that her fledgling program will provide diversified income to the farm in the form of carbon credit sales and act as an inspiration for other farmers to follow in her footsteps.