I stole the above picture from Facebook (Like us to see it in its original form and for more similar fun!) It sums up my previously confessed love affair with our farm's rotation of feeder pigs, and delicious eating in general.
Which brings me to today's Producer Profile, Matt Beach, a 5th generation farmer from Leonard, Missouri. He has supplied all of our feeder pigs and we have always received not only supreme quality livestock, but also exceptional customer service. (In fact, in doing this interview he was even kind enough to offer his phone number to anyone who may have further questions for him. While I can't type it here for privacy reasons, please contact me if you would like to get in touch with him!)
Without further ado, meet Matt Beach:
Describe your operation.
I run 120 sows outside on grass. I farrow twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. I am a grower for Niman Ranch and Patchwork Family Farms. My pigs are raised antibiotic and hormone free. Most of them are sold as feeder pigs to a grower in Iowa who finishes for Niman Ranch. I keep a few fat hogs to supply Patchwork Farms, a local locker and the needs for a few neighbors. I took over my father’s hog operation when I moved back from college in 2005.
Why did you choose hogs over other forms of livestock/farming?
I chose to raise hogs because our farm has had hogs for 50+ years, so we already had facilities in place. It didn't require a lot of overhead to get into outside hogs, which helped me since I was a beginning farmer. My hog operation acres are on ground that can't be row cropped, so it’s hard to find something as profitable as hogs to run on the few acres I do use. I enjoy seeing new little pigs being born every spring and fall. Raising hogs is a very rewarding job because you can see your progress and hard work paying off right in front of your own eyes.
Why did you choose to raise hogs in the manner that you do?
The low overhead to get started was a huge factor. I was 22 years old when I bought out the hog operation from my father. I did not have an endless supply of capital but I did have time and the desire to put in the longer hours that are demanded from an outside hog operation. Niman Ranch and Patchwork Farms both had floor prices for their hogs. That was a nice peace of mind to know I had a floor price to keep the profits in my operation.
What marketing options are there for those who are looking to raise their animals not in confinement?
Niman Ranch is always looking for more producers. I also have been involved with a group from Columbia, Missouri called Patchwork Family Farms. Both businesses sell outside raised pork free of antibiotics and hormones, and both groups are growing in a fast way. People are demanding quality pork that has been raised humanely and both of these groups have been delivering that. I also sell pigs to a local locker. There are several markets out there for outside raised pigs if a person is willing to work with different entities.
Do you see your methods gaining popularity in the future of agriculture? Or, do you see yourself as a holdout?
I would say a little bit of both. I am definitely a holdout from the norm. I did not like the idea of a huge loan on a confinement building lurking over my head. I also enjoy being my own boss and raising my animals as I see fit. I would also say that my kind of operation is starting to grow in some areas. Producers have realized there are profits to be made raising hogs outside as well as the enjoyment of knowing you are raising a quality product. If a person is not afraid to endure the weather and labor of outside hogs, this way of farming can work.