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Winner Expands Butcher Skills to 'Meat' Community Demand

Morgan Livingston understands agriculture’s magnetic force on those who love the land and animals. While college and her career led Morgan away from her family’s fifth generation Mahoning Creek Farm, Indiana County, “ag kept pulling me back,” she laughed.

After several years in social work, followed by three years as a farm manager with an agriculture non-profit, Morgan will return to the family farm, full-time, in 2022. The jumpstart grant will help improve the farm’s existing infrastructure.

“I always looked to make that transition back to farming, but in the past year, I started getting serious,” Morgan explained. As she began planning for her farm return, Morgan and her parents identified an opportunity to grow their herds and eventually, launch a small USDA inspected processing plant, to meet a surging demand for their local products. Mahoning Creek Farm sells Angus beef, Duroc and Hampshire pork and lamb through a small on-farm store, Indiana County Farmers Markets and a few other local retail markets. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced their meat products to new customers, “hungry for quality,” said Morgan.

While Indiana County is primarily rural, Mahoning Creek Farm’s customer base is near Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). “We’re passionate about being a resource to our local community,” Morgan explained. “We offer quality products to local customers and we want to become a local employer to keep money in this community.”

To meet their business goals, Morgan enrolled in the inaugural Penn State Butcher School apprenticeship program to become a trained meat processor. “For the first five months of the year, I was at the Penn State Meats Lab and the second half of 2021, I apprenticed at T & E Meats, a small processor in Harrisonburg, VA, learning more about meat harvest, smokehouse practices and packaging,” she continued.

Every farmer has unique challenges. “We’re fortunate to have existing land and buildings,” noted Morgan. “We do need to modernize our farm for the next generation. That includes fencing, pasture renovation and older barn and equipment upgrades.”

Morgan will use the jumpstart grant to help replace the farm’s existing swine facility, an old dairy barn converted to farrow hogs. “We need a modern barn,” she explained. “We want all stages of growth in the same barn and the jumpstart grant will fund this project’s planning and engineering costs.”

Excited to receive the grant, Morgan felt fortunate when she met her fellow grant winners on October 26. “It’s a great group with great business ideas,” she remembered. “I can learn from them and we can network in the future.”

As Morgan welcomes 2022, a step closer to fulfilling her farming goals, she shares this learning with other families considering their farm’s future. “If you and your family are working through a transition, communication is key. It’s difficult at first, but it gets easier the more we practice!”

Follow Mahoning Creek Farm on Facebook handle, @mahoningcreekfarm.

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