Neal and Ava Morgan, Shady Place Farms
Structure to House and Sell Value-added Beef
Grant Award: $6,000
Neal and Ava have constructed a dedicated space on their farm for storing and marketing freezer beef to individuals and eventually restaurants.
Their aim is to display a professional and sanitary image, “one that shows customers we are committed to excellence and serious about maintaining sanitary regulations, lending validity to our farm business,” Ava said. “Since the building would be located in the middle of the farm, it would provide a destination experience where customers would be able to see first-hand where their food is grown and get a sense of the excellence in farming conditions.”
The farm has a long history since Neal’s father started the dairy when he returned from War World II. After the 130-head dairy closed in 1995, the operation switched to beef cattle. Neal’s father, now at the age of 90, still farms when he feels up to it and lends his wisdom. Neal and Ava’s sons also work on the farm when they are not at work or college, while Neal and Ava depend on the farm for their main source of income.
“Both our off-the-farm jobs have ended so our commitment to the viability of the farm is paramount!” Ava said. “Viability in farming is key in ensuring the Morgan farming legacy is passed down to our children and grandchildren for generations to come.”
With a 2009 WNC AgOptions grant, they perfected a recipe for homegrown feed, which they produce in an on-farm grinder. Finishing their cattle with their own feed, which they tailor to their customers’ taste preferences, significantly increases their bottom line.
Since most of the producers in their area are selling to the local stockyard, Neal and Ava are setting an example of how to add value to an existing cow-calf production by selling a finished product. They plan to market their beef through a website, which they are in the midst of creating, as well as at local tailgate markets.