Livestock farmers asked to complete survey

Cows are pictured at the Crabapple Hollow Farm in Cambridge Springs.

Local beef and poultry farmers facing lengthy waits to process livestock have formed a working group to explore solutions in a multi-county region of northwestern Pennsylvania.

Producers in Crawford, Erie, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties are invited to take a short survey at forms.gle/Xwng7DVjFgN5WR9B7 by Sept. 30. The survey can also be found at www.troopstotractors.org

Working group members are collecting input and will obtain technical assistance from Penn State Extension Educators to conduct a feasibility study later in the fall. Among options being considered are forming a co-op of farmers/ranchers to seek funding, establishing a USDA certified slaughter and/or processing facility, seeking out custom or USDA butchers with the capacity to expand, and helping consumers form ‘buyers clubs’ to purchase quarter or halves of custom processed beef or pork.

Don Green of Crabapple Hollow Farm in Cambridge Springs is a United States Army veteran raising beef and vegetables on his family farm. Green, whose butcher is booked well into 2021, is typical of farmers and ranchers in northwestern Pennsylvania experiencing long waits for slaughter and processing at USDA certified facilities.

“Our group is working to find a way for producers to have more flexibility in getting their animals processed on time. With more processing options in our area, we could offer farmers the opportunity to get fresh, local meat and poultry to market when they want, not when the butcher wants them to,” Green said.

Fellow working group member Mark Muir, Erie County PA Farm Bureau president, raises cattle and sheep on his 56-acre farm, and echoes then need for increased processing capability for small livestock farmers in the region. Muir, a member of the working group, has done extensive research on how processing bottlenecks have been solved in other states, including Michigan, Nevada, New York, and North Carolina.

Disruptions in the marketplace as a result of Covid-19 have been a “mixed blessing” for farmers, says Mimi Thomas-Brooker of the PA Veteran Farming Project.

“Due to safety issues in the meat packing industry in the Midwest, local farmers throughout the state have seen greater opportunity to connect with consumers. Unfortunately, the situation has negatively impacted small meat processors who were often already over capacity. This project will be a boon not only to local producers and buyers, but will have a positive economic impact in the region, helping small farms thrive,” Thomas-Brooker said.

Livestock producers may contact Don Green at farmcrabapplehollow@outlook.com or 814-573-6490 to learn more.


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