Completing the Circle of Life

Ebert Enterprises opens farm-to-fork restaurant.

The Ebert family – (from left) Randy, Renee, Whitney and Jordan – operate Ebert Enterprises where they milk 4,200 cows and farm almost 9,000 acres near Algoma, Wisconsin.

The Ebert family – (from left) Randy, Renee, Whitney and Jordan – operate Ebert Enterprises where they milk 4,200 cows and farm almost 9,000 acres near Algoma, Wisconsin.

By Stacey Smart

ALGOMA, Wis. – Serving farm-fresh meals to the Algoma community and beyond, Homestead Kitchen and Tap opened June 17 and is the newest endeavor of the Ebert family. Burgers made with the farm’s beef are a top seller at the Eberts’ farm-tofork restaurant located a couple miles down the road from their dairy.

“For years, we’ve been talking about taking product to the consumer,” Randy Ebert said. “But we never had a goal of owning a restaurant. It’s more about completing the circle of life.”

Ebert Enterprises is run by Randy and Renee Ebert and their children, Jordan and Whitney. The Eberts milk 4,200 cows three times a day in an 80-stall rotary parlor and farm close to 9,000 acres – one-third of which are double cropped. Homesteaded in 1868, Randy and Renee are the sixth generation to run the Ebert farm, and Jordan and Whitney are the seventh.

Watching over the family from above is the Ebert’s daughter, Britney, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 19. Britney was the twin of Whitney and was born with hydrocephalus – an illness that delayed her learning. Britney’s memory lives on as she remains a special part of the Ebert family. Angel wings can be found within the logos of the restaurant and Ebert Enterprises, serving as a tribute to the Eberts’ beloved daughter and sister.

“Even though Britney is gone now, she shaped our family, and we miss her every day,” Randy said. “We feel super blessed to have raised our children on the farm.”

Diversification is in the Eberts’ blood, and the last year and a half was filled with a trifecta of business decisions that put the family on a rapid course of living the circle of life mentality they proudly stand behind. First, the Eberts bought Salmon’s Meat Products in Luxemburg – a meat, sausage and venison shop known for its natural casing and smoked meats. Next, they built a facility for harvesting animals on the farm. And third, they opened a restaurant.

“We’re blessed with a heck of a group of employees that allow us to do all of this,” Randy said.

Proud to serve a local, fresh product to their neighbors, the Eberts enjoy sharing their farm for customers to serve at their table.

“The restaurant allows us to have a close, personal relationship with the customer,” Jordan said. “That’s something you don’t get at the wholesale level.”

The round, red and white building housing Homestead Kitchen and Tap mimics a barn and matches the design of the Eberts’ parlor. The eye-catching establishment exudes rustic ambiance at every turn and carries the farm theme throughout as a windmill fan spins above the bar, and country décor fills the space. Pictures of cows and crops taken on the Eberts’ farm adorn the walls. A display of agricultural antiques, such as a butter churner and milk cans, tie into the homestead theme.

The stamp of agriculture can be found everywhere in the form of barn doors, water tanks used as flowerpots, silver Fleet Farm buckets acting as menu holders, ear tags to signify table numbers and a beer tap in the shape of a milk can. Television screens situated throughout play a video about Ebert Enterprises to help patrons learn more about the connection between restaurant and farm. The restaurant’s 99-person capacity makes it roomy enough to serve a large crowd yet small enough to feel cozy. Outside, a corn crib serves as one of the outdoor waiting areas and includes chairs set up around a Þ re pit. People can also play games like giant Connect Four and bean bag toss while waiting for a table.

“Our menu is fairly simple,” Jordan said. “We start with beef and go from there. At some point, we would like to add steaks, but we’re trying to walk before we run.”

The Homestead Burger – a half-pound prime rib patty – and the steak sandwich made from shaved ribeye are two of the top sellers. Pizza is also a favorite along with the nacho platter.

The Eberts operate Homestead Kitchen and Tap, a farm-to-fork restaurant, located down the road from their dairy farm. They opened the business in June.

The Eberts operate Homestead Kitchen and Tap, a farm-to-fork restaurant, located down the road from their dairy farm. They opened the business in June.

Also featured on the menu is the Brity Burger. Named after Britney, the special burger is another way the Eberts are keeping her memory alive.

“An open-faced burger was Brit’s favorite,” Renee said. “She wanted to see the burger, so she would throw the bun aside.”

A Friday fish fry, salads and more can be found on the menu which contains gluten-free options as well. Beef is from the Eberts, and other proteins come from Salmon’s. Cheese comes from Agropur where the Eberts ship their milk.

“From beers and wines to cheese curds, we have a lot of local vendors on the menu,” Renee said. “If it’s a product we can’t tie back to our farm, we try to keep it local. Our head cook is big on homemade dishes and makes her own sauces. She puts her own touches on everything, and our menu has expanded because of her.”

The Eberts raise 2,500 beef cattle from post-wean to finish down the road from the dairy operation. All beef cattle are Angus or Simmental cross. The Eberts’ beef is also sold at Salmon’s retail store and to grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants in northeast Wisconsin.

“We’ve been breeding beef for over 10 years, and in 2013, we decided to raise our own beef,” Jordan said. “We like to control our own costs, and it was also a way to add value back in. We make more beef calves now than dairy calves.”

Randy agreed.

“One of our strengths is that we’re structured to cashflow in the toughest times,” he said. “By supplying our own beef, we remove the variability when prices fluctuate. Our costs remain constant.”

The harvesting of animals is now under the Eberts’ control after opening a butcher shop this past spring. The private facility is used to harvest Ebert animals only – the family does not offer custom harvesting. Cattle do not have to travel far on their Þ nal trip as the facility is located down the road from the beef operation. A member of the Eberts’ herd staff is responsible for animal selections, hauling and putting the animals down in a humane manner.

“We spend our whole life taking care of animals, and we want to make sure that when their time here is done, they pass humanely,” Randy said. “We follow Temple Grandin’s model for animal handling and built a smaller version of her sweeping cattle corral design for most efficient cattle flow.”

Jordan said they ensure the animal is handled to the best of their ability in its final moments.

“If we’re able to do this part ourselves, we can make sure it’s done right,” he said. “This translates to food safety as well.”

The Eberts are proud of the fact the beef they serve at their restaurant never leaves the county at any point.

“We’re not just talking the talk of farm to fork but are also walking the walk in that we truly control the product from crop to plate,” Jordan said. “But we don’t shove the farm-to-fork concept down people’s throats. If someone wants to know the details, we’ll tell them. But if you just want to come and have a burger, that’s awesome too.”

The farm-to-table experience at Homestead Kitchen and Tap has been received with open arms. “So far, we’ve been blessed with good traffic,” Renee said.