Robyn Raile, one of the co-owners of Monty’s Jerky, fills us in about life on the farm, and the happy life of a (super talented!) jerky maker.
Monty’s is a family business, right? Tell us more about that!
Yes! We are farmers. My husband Tim is the third generation to work on this land, and our son and his wife joined us last year in the operation so it is now a multi-generational farm. Wade, my brother, used to farm with my Dad, and now farms for himself and our mom. We raise wheat, corn, sunflowers, and some beans depending on conditions. Northwest Kansas is a dry, arid part of the country.
With all those farmers in the family, you must have grown up with lots of good food on your family dinner table.
I grew up in a household that enjoyed lots of strong flavor and trying new things. My Dad enjoyed experimenting with his smoker, grilling, and seasonings. We tease my brother Wade about being the snack king. He is always looked for great tasting unique snacks. That’s actually how we got into the jerky business. Monty himself was a college friend of my brother’s wife’s father (did you catch that?) and developed the recipe for himself, family, and friends. He had a little store in Denver and my brother Wade was visiting. He really liked the jerky, so he approached Monty about buying the business and bringing it to Kansas. Luckily, Monty was up for it.
And you all went into business together?
My brother, husband, and I are business partners. Wade and my husband Tim have full time farming operations so I am day to day manager at Monty’s. Our mom Sherry is a full time employee; we don’t know how we would do it without her. Several years ago we started talking about a business model that would fit into our lifestyle as well as something that would complement our agriculture businesses. Jerky has been a perfect outlet!
How's the jerky made?
Making jerky is a basic process. With such a homemade product, though, the challenge is consistency. Our meat is sourced from ranchers that follow strict guidelines: the spices are non- irradiated and there are no added preservatives. We smoke the meat over hickory chips then vacuum seal it. Our basic goal is to keep it simple, to make a jerky that is easy to chew and very flavorful. The entire process takes several days. Mondays we trim and slice the meat that we’ll use that week, and pop it in the marinade. Tuesday we smoke the meat, and marinate what we’ll smoke on Weds. Wednesday, we do a little smoking, and begin to package the jerky that is ready. And I find time in there somewhere to keep up with all the paperwork. Everyday involves a tremendous amount of sanitation, of course, too. In addition to the three of us, we have 2 employees, both moms that have school age kids. We all get along famously, and it’s really a joy to come to work.
Every day is a new learning experience, which is very challenging, but also rewarding. We find that the biggest challenge is getting customers to taste the jerky. Once they taste it, they’re sold. We want to grow the business a little, because we’d love to be able to create more jobs in our small town of just 450 people. Also exploring new flavors is a big thing for us – we are always looking for seasonings that speak to us.