Grilling side business becomes livelihood for Indiana hog farmers
Source: The Star Press
Ron Orebaugh started farming in 1972, raising livestock and growing crops. About 10 years ago, Orebaugh and his wife, Susan, started a catering business on the side, Grand Grilling to Go, cooking up the pork they raised on their farm south of Muncie.
Before too many years passed, the side business became the Orebaughs’ main business. They now spend more time each week on grilling and catering than on their farm.
“The farm has become the part-time business and Grand Grilling is the full-time job,” Ron Orebaugh said. “I never would have believed it.”
The Orebaughs and family members who work with them are highly visible each Saturday at the Farmers Market at Minnetrista, grilling up pork sandwiches and sausage burgers and serving them to a hungry public. Because the aroma of grilled pork wafts throughout the Farmers Market, patrons usually smell Grand Grilling to go before they see the Orebaughs working under a tent in a corner of the parking lot.
A week ago, the Orebaughs cooked for three events in a single day: They grilled 250 pork chops for their church’s annual picnic, cooked another 200 for an auction and 200 more for a memorial service.
“That’s more common than you think,” Ron Orebaugh said about the triple-header.
The demands of Grand Grilling to Go became so great that Susan Orebaugh last year decided she would leave her job at the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce to devote her time to the family business.
Long before they formally founded their business, the Orebaughs did hog roasts for neighbors and whipped up food for pork producers group dinners.
“One thing led to another and all of a sudden I was doing it all the time,” Ron Orebaugh said.
The grilling business started out with a single kettle grill and a homemade hog roaster. “Now we’ve got a 16-foot grill that we cook on and four five-foot grills. And we’ve still got a couple of backyard grills.”
The Orebaughs once catered more hog roasts, but a proper roast requires that the Orebaughs begin in the early-morning hours and tend to the process all day.
Thirty years ago when we roasted pigs everybody wanted you to roast the pig in their backyard,” he said. “They wanted the whole show. Now they just want to eat.”
Like farming, the grilling business keeps the Orebaughs busy throughout the calendar year.
“It’s a year-round business. It’s every day, every week. Last year we fixed four Thanksgiving and three Christmas dinners besides our own.”
The Orebaughs’ son, Rok, does much of the grilling now while Ron does prep work, sides and delivery. Rok’s wife, Katie, works in the business and the Orebaughs’ granddaughter, 10-month-old Threya, “is the person we all work for,” Ron Orebaugh said.
Susan Orebaugh said leaving her chamber of commerce job and going into the family business was necessary because of the growth of Grand Grilling. She said she was initially wary of “live grilling” events like those at farmers markets at Minnetrista and Yorktown.
“I wasn’t too sure, but I love it,” she said. “I used to be pretty shy, but it’s helped me get over my shyness.”
Ron Orebaugh said he thinks his business has benefited from the public’s interest in knowing where its food comes from.
“I can tell you how that piece of meat was fed, how it was cared for,” he said. “Everything we raise goes to the catering business. That’s been a big selling point.”
At 57, he observed one thing about his business: He doesn’t count on retiring to a life of leisure.
“I don’t know how soon I’m going to get to retire,” he said. “In our generation I don’t think there is any such thing as retirement. We’re going to work ’til the end.”