VERGAS -- A light smell of smoked meat, and a freezer full of it, greets DuWayne Ditterich's customers when they walk through the door of his Ditterich Family Farm store.

It didn't always smell that way; Ditterich started the farm without any cattle in 2012.

But because his family couldn't find any beef they really liked -- hardly eating any beef at all, Ditterich said -- they decided to add angus and angus cross beef cows to their farm.

"Angus is known for ... marbling (the internal fats in beef). So I take that animal and then we breed it with a limousin or a simmental breed, which is known for meat ... with OK marbling," Ditterich said.

When Ditterich combines these breeds of cows, he gets a large amount of meat from the limousin or simmental breed with the marbling of the angus breed. All of his cows go "from birth to plate ... there's not another process that I could do."

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After he found the cut of meat he liked and the right grill to smoke it on, Ditterich started out cooking for his family. In 2017, his cousin brought up the idea of selling the meat.

"I didn't originally want to," Ditterich said. But, he did it anyway. "I butchered a beef and I completely sold out in 12 days. My first beef, with nobody even knowing I was doing this."

After that first beef, Ditterich said that the store "just exploded." He would have sample days for customers, offering brisket, hamburger and more.

Although he said that he's always wanted to own a food truck, Ditterich didn't start that aspect of his business until his nephew let him know that there was a food truck for sale in Clarkfield, Minn. -- Ditterich's hometown.

"So I went down and on a whim, I just bought it," Ditterich said.

When DuWayne Ditterich doesn't have events to cater to, he'll sometimes just set up The Smoke Wagon at the family farm in Vergas. (Courtesy photo)
When DuWayne Ditterich doesn't have events to cater to, he'll sometimes just set up The Smoke Wagon at the family farm in Vergas. (Courtesy photo)

That was in December. He had no idea what to name it, so he hosted a contest this spring on the Ditterich Family Farms Facebook page. One of Ditterich's friends came up with "The Smoke Wagon," and Ditterich loved it.

For the majority of the summer, Ditterich used The Smoke Wagon at small graduation parties and weddings, but that was about it. It wasn't until the weekend of Looney Daze when Jill Shipman, the owner of Otter Coffee in Vergas, told Ditterich that she had signed him up to cook during the event. The turn-out was decent, and Ditterich came back a couple days later.

"We made 100 pounds of brisket and 40 pounds of smoked roast beef," Ditterich said. "We pretty much sold out in two hours and 20 minutes. So it was pretty intense."

Since then, Ditterich thought he'd spent about 10 to 12 days at different catering events. He sets the truck up at their farm sometimes, too.

For each of these catering events, Ditterich offers his normal menu of brisket, baby back ribs, smoked beef, pulled pork and prime rib, but he can adjust the menu to what the client would like. He figures he serves about three people every minute when he sets up at an event, even when he offers a full meal with cowboy beans, potato salad or a corn muffin.

"I like for people to get a fair value -- pay a fair price and get a fair meal," Ditterich said.

Most of Ditterich's business is in Becker, Otter Tail and Clay counties. He likes to stay within about 50 miles and serving about 100 to 200 people each time. The meals he serves have to be prepared a day or two in advance, and for big parties, it takes even more time, and Ditterich has to manage his whole farm at the same time. Although he said that he can serve more people at a further distance, it's a lot harder for both he and his family as they run it themselves.

Ditterich will continue to cater to events through Christmas, but after that, The Smoke Wagon will stay inside until the spring. But, the family farm is open "364 days a year, 24 hours a day. The only day we're not open is Christmas," Ditterich said.

DuWayne Ditterich's sons, Hunter, Colton and Boone, help out with the food truck in the summer months. (Courtesy photo)
DuWayne Ditterich's sons, Hunter, Colton and Boone, help out with the food truck in the summer months. (Courtesy photo)

The Smoke Wagon Information