After working internationally in Architecture and Real-Estate Development for many years, Philip Zeiter longed to remove himself and his wife from the fast pace of big business in order to homestead a parcel of land and begin a simpler family lifestyle.
The young couple desired to raise their children in a peaceful, healthy environment while developing the land into a spiritual retreat site where other families could visit in order to enjoy special family time together within the peaceful realm of God’s creation.
After three years of investigating areas, reviewing countless properties, and engaging dozens of realtors, they just couldn’t find that peaceful place that satisfied their criteria. But soon thereafter, as the century turned into the year 2000, a very kind, elderly gentleman named Bob Reeder showed them a 173 acre parcel of land in Grass Valley, California and said, “I’m not planning on selling it – but if I find a family that loves it as much as me, I just might.”
Well, he found that family and just couldn’t resist the charm of those first two children, who now continue to work and care for the property…
The original owner of Our Lady's Ranch, Bob Reeder, with Phil, Tyler (age 3), and Zachary (age 2) Zeiter.
By the time we started construction on the main House for our family (four years later) we enjoyed growing some healthy vegetables and fruits along with starting a massive livestock operation of two cows.☺
Well, two cows turned into four, then eight, sixteen and thirty-two. And meanwhile, our little family went from four to seven to nine. As the children began to grow bigger, we became more concerned about providing healthy food for them, but couldn’t really find much, so we decided to grow it ourselves.
As we increased our ranching/farming experience and improved our livestock operations, the finish products continued to become more tender and tasty. Then our friends began to request more and more meat until finally they started suggesting that we open up sales at the local Farmers’ Market.
So we procured the necessary licenses, including a cooking license so we could have a barbeque next to our sales booth for prospective customers to sample the meat. And that was the best part of our farmer’s market booth – watching those unsuspecting folks put that first bite of good ol’ fashioned real beef in their mouth. Their whole face would light up with an excited smile and then the conversation would begin –
“How? What? Just… Wow! – Okay, what should we get for dinner tonight? Do you sell in bulk?”
And thank goodness for all those continuing encouragements like, “Thank you for doing this!” “We want to support local Ag,” and “Your kids are so amazing.”
The Zeiter Family working the Farmer's Market in Grass Valley together. All seven kids help behind the booth: Tyler, Zachary, Christia, Alisandra, Joseph, Michael, and Mariana.
Today, Family Friendly Farms has grown into a vibrant community of young people who love to farm and are dedicated to bringing healthy food and peaceful living to others.
This family-farming community became all the more necessary as the seven kids grew up and went off to college, and especially when mom passed away in 2020.
Tyler and Zachary have now come around full circle, while bringing kids of their own with them! Phil Zeiter is still leading Family Friendly Farms and steering it into a bright future with his newly-wed wife, Karen.
In this new season, we have further developed our products and customer services, continually seeking to improve them for those who have supported us from the very beginning to those just discovering us for the first time. We believe that it's important to know where your food is coming from, and also who's growing it for you!
Meet Your Farmers...
Phil Zeiter, Business Manager
Phil's entrepreneurial spirit took him from his own architecture firm to running a ranch with seven kids.
Now that his 14 hour workdays have slowed down a little, he spends his time managing the overall business in between visiting his kids around the country.
In addition, his latest passion is helping interested people learn how to Homestead.
Karen Zeiter, Business Development
From high school homecoming queen who graduated college (at the age of 20) with a degree in industrial engineering, and the mother of two beautiful daughters, to becoming a business executive and then an international distributor of fine wines, Karen has done it all - almost.
Today, she works alongside Phil, to help launch FFF into the next season of healthy eating and wholesome living.
Tyler Straight, Design & Marketing
Ty (Zeiter) was a super shy little girl until she began working behind the Farmer's Market booth at age 13 for Family Friendly Farms with the rest of her family. Since then, she has turned into an entrepreneur with the hard-working spirit of her parents.
Today, she lives in Texas with her husband and their daughter, working remotely to keep FFF on track with the modern times. In addition, she runs her own brand and web design studio, called Straight Creative.
Zachary Zeiter, Operations Manager
When you grow up on a ranch you learn hard work and responsibility at a very young age. Starting in middle school, Zach was working the same hours as a grown man. In high school he knew more life skills than most people do twice his age.
After a brief time away for college and marriage, he's back at Our Lady's Ranch with his wife and daughter, living in the original Cottage the Zeiter's first moved into back in 2004.
Isaiah Fifer, Ranch Manager
Growing up in the middle of society’s hustle and bustle, Isaiah came to know two things: (1) He wanted to be a dad, and (2) He did not want to be stuck in an office. Finding Family Friendly Farms at Our Lady's Ranch was an answer to his hopes and dreams.
Now he's in charge of all construction and tractor work here at the Ranch, striving to improve the property one project at a time. He attributes this opportunity to God's Providence and hopes to one day share it with his future wife and kids.
Keller Brown, Sales Manager
As a SoCal city boy, Keller thought country living was only in books. And yet he was drawn to the idea more and more as he realized the selfish individualism that dominated the secular world around him. He was searching for community when he found us at Family Friendly Farms and just knew that he had to try out this agrarian family life at Our Lady’s Ranch.
Now, he has done everything from milking cows and feeding chickens to managing our customer services and sales! He’s come to realize that farming isn't quite the fairytale that comes out of books, but a deeply rewarding life that yields divine fulfillment.
Stevenson Agdon, Farm Manager
Stevenson moved to the California suburbs with his family from the Philippines when he was 14-years-old. As he grew older, he was drawn to an agrarian lifestyle.
A simple Google search for "local grass-fed beef in northern California" landed him on the FFF website. In an unrelated conversation, his friend mentioned Family Friendly Farms and that started a long conversation. After several more passes through the FFF web site, Stevenson just couldn’t hold back anymore so he sent us a letter of introduction requesting a come and see visit. Well, he came, he saw, and three days later he moved out to live and work with us on a full-time basis. This giant leap of faith brought him here and now he is living the dream with us.
Claire Hobrock, Lodging & Hospitality
Claire Grew up in San Diego, California with Zach's wife, Cecilia, and with no idea of the connection, she met Tyler at University in 2019!
Now at Our Lady's Ranch, she has forgone the instant gratification of iPhone scrolling to live daily in the way of the simple hearted, "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all” (Laura Ingalls Wilder). She claims that managing a community space, helping to pack orders, and doing farm chores may seem boring on the surface, but in reality the tasks are simple, sweet, and most importantly — they are real.
The future is exciting as we look to expand our operations by opening our own butcher shop. Not only will it allow us to butcher our own animals in the most clean and humane way possible, but we will be expanding to over 100 products along with specialty packaging for our customers.
We find it quite interesting that as we live in peace and share it with others, most retreat activities and family visits here now revolve around farming and food – the one common element that unites all ages, cultures, and religions. Food is usually at the center of our holidays, festivals, and gatherings, so we really enjoy helping you all center your special family events around the love and peace that is poured into every morsel of food from our Family Friendly Farm.
Thank you for your continuing love and support.
Blessings and Peace to You,
The Zeiter Family and Friends
Grass-Fed Beef, Pasture-Raised Pork, Meadow-Grass Lamb, & Free-Range Chicken