Tracey Ahearn and Kathy Signorelli have been friends for 35 years. They have supported each other through just about everything: relationships, marriages, jobs, kids, divorces, moves. Now they own a business together.
“When I had the opportunity to chase my dream of working with horses and help improve the health of horses with growing fodder hydroponically, Tracey was all in,” said Signorelli. “She has always been interested in hydroponics and growing sprouts, and we both have a love for animals, so we decided to give it our best shot.”
They started Red Barn Harvest in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 2021. Red Barn Harvest produces fresh, hydroponically grown barley sprouts, known as fodder, as feed for performance horses and other grass-fed animals. They serve the immediate Hot
Springs area, home of Oaklawn race track.
You know the adage; you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Fodder
takes drinking out of the equation, since it’s made of close to 80% water.
With fodder, the goal is to minimize the use of drugs and processed supplements and
give horses an all-natural, nutritious feed to help them thrive
On the Right Track
When the women first started their business, they needed some direction. Their banker referred them to the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center’s Ryan Cole. He provided financial projections and market research, important pieces of their business plan.
“Ryan helped us tremendously with our business plan and getting a line of credit set up in the event we needed extra startup money,” Kathy said.
Kathy has years of experience with horses as a rider, exercise jockey, groomer, wound specialist, and trainer. She manages the growing, processing, and delivery of the product. With extensive experience in sales and customer service, Tracey manages the books and marketing duties.
“We would highly recommend ASBTDC and Ryan Cole to small business owners and anyone needing help and guidance getting started in a new business. It’s a lot of hard work starting out, and it’s comforting to have experienced and knowledgeable people to turn to and get you to the next level of success,” said Signorelli.
Fresh Fodder in 4 Days
The growing process from seed to fodder happens in four days. Every day, the Red Barn team plants and harvests. When ready, the fodder is parceled out in five-pound mats.
Starting out, one issue RBH faced was achieving consistency. Mastering the growing climate is a requirement to produce a consistently high-quality product.
With their hydroponic system, the sprinklers, lights, air temperature, and humidity are all set on computerized timers. After some minor tweaks, including trial and error, they produced a product they were proud to offer their customers.
Red Barn Harvest seeks to serve the many local equine establishments in the area, such as boarding and breeding facilities, race tracks, training centers, and veterinary clinics. Signorelli says “it has taken time and persistence and proof to get our foot in the door” with trainers and owners. “Once they see the benefits in the look and performance of their horses, they take note.”
“We have many success stories and love our customers and their horses,” she said.
One of their favorites is a race horse name Mahomey. As Kathy recounts, the horse was sidelined by an injury. He was being very well cared for but there was concern if he would ever run again. His caretaker decided to put him on RBH’s fodder.
After three months, the horse’s owner barely recognized him due to the transformation. “Mahomey ran his first race 13 months later and showed, which was amazing. His second race he won and has continued on a successful path,” she said.
Fodder is not only good for horses. In addition, other grass-fed animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens can reap the benefits. “Fodder-fed animals produce a higher quality of meat and eggs because of the nutrient absorption fodder provides to the animals,” said Signorelli.
Learn more about the business at www.redbarnharvest.com.
(Photos courtesy of Red Barn Harvest)