Meet Your Rancher: Anna Aja
Arizona Beef Council: Where you are located? I live in Stanfield (in between Casa Grande and Maricopa) but my husband and I partner on a desert ranch south of Buckeye and I sell beef from my parent’s ranch in the Verde Valley.
What segment of the beef community are you involved in? Cow-calf/meat sales/mom/association staff.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your ranch.
Anna Aja: I grew up the 4th generation on my family’s ranch in Cottonwood. I truly believe it was the best way to grow up. I am thankful for the independence it instilled in me and for the responsibility I was given in raising and caring for livestock. I was active in 4-H and FFA and served as the State FFA President my freshman year of college. I attended the University of Arizona and received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Economics. My husband and I actually met when we were 15 at an Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association convention but we re-met our freshman year and have been together ever since. We now have three kiddos, Basilio (5), Andy Marie (3) and Perry Craig (1). A year ago, I started selling beef directly to the consumer from our family’s ranches. I’ve always wanted to do it and since I’m located near such a large metro area I thought I would give it a shot. Our beef company is called 9F Cattle Co. 9F is the brand my husband’s grandmother gifted us after we got married and is what we use to identify our cattle. It was her father’s and she told us that the 9F stood for the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22-23
How does the technology you use now differ from the technology that was passed down to you or that generations passed may have used on this ranch?
In regards to my direct sales, with today’s technology world, launching my beef sales business was completely different from when my grandpa and his dad would wagon their meat and produce from Middle Verde up to the mining town of Jerome. First I got my website set up and decided to utilize an order form that took customer information but I would take payment upon delivery. Once that was complete I started my Facebook page and began to utilize word of mouth referrals and purchase advertising on social media that hit my desired target audience. I still do plenty of handshake deals which is gratifying to be able to work with people who are true to their word.
What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the beef you raise and sell?
When I sell beef to a consumer I really enjoy that personal connection. And I’m thrilled when they have questions about our ranch or cattle. I do find my customers are often surprised that the majority of our cattle don’t get sold directly but in fact go through the conventional method and end up in a Fry’s or Safeway somewhere. I always see a light bulb go off when they realize that the beef that is found in their local market was raised with care and respect by a family just like mine. I do take pride in the beef we sell and do consider it to be premium as it is dry-aged 21 days, custom cut for my customers and delivered to their doorstep.
What is the most important thing that you want people to know about beef?
I’m often faced with someone who is nervous to purchase a lot of beef because they mention an inaccurate health claim. I want people to know that beef is part of a heart-healthy diet, that you can eat well and enjoy what you’re eating.
What is the most important piece of information that you want people to know about you and your family’s beef?
We take a tremendous amount of pride in doing a job well. We care about our animals’ quality of life and respect them for the protein they provide us. We care about the environment and being sustainable – we want to pass on our ranches to future generations. And finally, that the beef we raise and sell to them and their family is the same beef we feed our family.
If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?
Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it?
I’m a ribeye girl through and through and I want it grilled over charcoal or mesquite by my husband. But really, I love brisket, tri-tip, flat iron, short ribs and more. One of my all-time favorite recipes is this one by Anne Burrell – I’m actually making these on Sunday!