Producer Partnership encourages farmers to help fight hunger
Food insecurity is a constant, often silent issue in the United States, and quality protein such as beef is a luxury in troubled households. When Matt Pierson learned that the food bank network in his home state of Montana had to buy a large amount of burgers each year, he had an idea to help him.
Pierson is a fifth-generation farmer in Livingston, Montana, who runs the Highland Livestock Calf operation with his family. He knew from experience that slaughtered cattle, such as open cows or free heifers, were usually worth very little at auction. These animals eventually end up in the food supply, but what if that product could be kept in the community and donated to those in need?
From this idea the Producer partnership he was born.
Launched in 2020, beef producers donate their slaughter animals to the Producer Partnership and in return receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of the donated meat. Producer Partnership pays for the processing and places the donated hamburger in the Montana Food Bank Network – since its inception, more than £ 95,000 has been donated to the hamburger. In 2021, 31 sole cattle producers donated animals.
Prior to the launch of the business in 2020, securing space for beef processing was already difficult, and COVID-19 exacerbated this problem. Pierson knew that an on-site installation would be needed to achieve all the goals he had in mind.
He thought about buying an existing processing unit or building something from scratch, but found that these options would be extremely expensive and limiting. Then he found it Friesla, a Washington-based company that builds module-based processing units. These state-of-the-art systems can be built and are a much more affordable option compared to traditional meat processing facilities.
Pierson knew this was the solution, and in 2021, the Producer Partnership purchased Montana’s first federally inspected nonprofit processing facility, which will be operational by the spring of this year. The Friesla system will allow for future expansion and will ultimately be a source of income for the nonprofit, providing personalized processing services.
Pierson would like to offer services to beef sellers first, “We would very much like to work with producers directly to consumers,” he said.
The on-site facility will also simplify the beef donation process.
“When people call an animal they want to donate, we can process it immediately. We are very pleased with this, because that was the biggest obstacle, ”explains Pierson.
When the Producer Partnership began, the community showed overwhelming support, which continued as the organization grew. In 2021, a capital campaign raised $ 1.9 million in funding. State-owned beef producers have also shown support by donating their slaughter animals.
For Pierson, this generosity was encouraging and inspiring.
“It’s amazing to see how much people are doing for their communities,” he said.
Fighting hunger in Montana is Pierson’s priority, but he sees an opportunity to expand his efforts in the future.
“The goal, to begin with, is to succeed [Montana Food Bank Network] he will never have to buy a hamburger, ”explains Pierson. “After that, we want to focus on every school in the state and keep growing.”
Beef can be a luxury for those in need, especially with current grocery prices, and Pierson believes it is a sensible solution to help eliminate hunger, especially in Montana.
“It’s a source of high quality protein, and in a state of 3 million cows, we need to help the community that needs it,” he said.
The organization is focusing on the $ 3 million campaign to eliminate hunger in 2022 and is exploring other ways to diversify and improve the operation. In 2021, the Producers Partnership has hired three full-time employees and will hire additional staff when the processing unit becomes operational.
Pierson said the success and growth of the organization exceeded his expectations.
“The organization has grown from a simple spreadsheet on my computer to 501 (c) status and soon our own processing facility – it’s crazy, overwhelming and incredible,” he said.
Lilly Platts lives in Montana, where she is an editor at the American Simmental Association and writes freelance articles for a number of agricultural publications.
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