Crops and Cattle Are This Farm Family’s Business

As a kid in 4-H, Aaron Steenhoek got hooked on beef. Through 4-H projects, he kept pens of cattle and sold quarters, halves and wholes direct to consumers. He tracked how the cattle grew and how they gained. He remembers a local locker that sent a USDA inspector to show him how beef was graded and measured.

“It was really interesting to me,” Aaron says. “Cattle have always been in my family, but I really got interested in the meat side of things.”

Aaron Cattle

So much so that he and his wife, Cory, decided six years ago to grow that side of their own family business. The couple live on the Steenhoek family’s Iowa Century Farm in Pella, where Aaron and his dad run a cow-calf operation. They also grow corn and soybeans, as well as summer forage, rye and alfalfa as feed for their herd.

Now, Aaron and Cory also have a feedlot at Black Oak Acres. Aaron says they buy four or five groups throughout the year – feeding roughly 150 to 160 head annually —  in order to keep a constant flow of cattle on the farm. He’s particular about only buying cattle private treaty, or directly from a small number of trusted producers.

“They don’t go through a sale barn or auction. We go and pick them up straight from the farm,” Aaron says. “It keeps the cattle from being exposed to other cattle, which keeps them healthier.”

Aaron, who is also a regional sales manager for Latham Seeds, says he and Cory decided a few years ago to apply for a retail license to sell their farm-raised beef direct to consumers. Until then, they had been relying on local outlets to retail it for them. Now they have an inspected space right on the farm where they can sell cuts and bundles themselves.

Aaron says the retail business has been nice because people can fill in with particular cuts even when Black Oak Acres might be a month or two out on product. Customers can buy in smaller amounts, too.

“But what’s really great is that people know where their beef is coming from and how it’s been treated,” he says. “We never use growth hormones or antibiotics.”

The Steenhoeks are careful stewards of the land — both for quality nutrition for their animals and conservation practices to protect it for generations to come.

“Stewarding the land and the livestock is important to me,” Aaron says. “We really enjoying educating people about livestock and cattle in particular. There’s a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there, because people are more removed from the farm life in general these days.”

P Cattle

Piedmontese Cattle

Included in Aaron’s herd are four Piedmontese cattle, a rare breed that is known for being a leaner, premium-tasting but lower-calorie choice in beef. This is because Piedmontese are myostatin free, meaning they have a higher lean-to-fat ratio and do not develop the fatty marbling of traditional breeds. In addition, Piedmontese have lower levels of cholesterol, making it a healthier option for some people.

Aaron says the texture of Piedmontese is different, and it needs to cook more slowly and at a lower temperature than more common cuts of beef.

“But when it’s cooked right, you can almost cut it with a fork,” he says. “It’s that good.”

Family Photo

Aaron and Cory have four children: Emmett, Rhett, Klay and Quinn. They both graduated from Central College with degrees in exercise science and health promotion. When she’s not helping out on the farm, Cory is a personal fitness trainer. Today they’re sharing a family favorite recipe for National Beef Month.

Crockpot Roast Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches


  • 2- or 3-pound beef roast chuck or pot roast
  • 1, 10½ oz. can beef consommé
  • 1, 10½ oz. French onion soup
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 or 2 (yellow, red or green) peppers, sliced
  • Small can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • Sliced Provolone or American cheese
  • Hoagie rolls (they hold up well under the weight of this sandwich)


  1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker or crockpot.
  2. Add beef consommé and French onion soup to the pot; cook on low setting for 8 hours.
  3. Two hours before serving, add bell peppers, onions and mushrooms.
  4. To serve, pull beef apart. Then simply use tongs to place meat and veggies onto hoagies.
  5. Top with 2 slices of cheese. Add sandwich to air fryer (or oven) for about 5 minutes or until cheese starts to slightly brown on top.