What happens when a Montana rancher decides to help out some neighbors and provide a little beef to some folks in need? In Matt Pierson's case, it turns into a mission to end hunger across the entire Treasure State. Thus was born the Producer Partnership.
Pierson is a 5th generation Montana rancher located in Livingston, Montana who runs the family ranch, Highland Livestock Company along with his wife, Kris and sons Jakob and Nik.
He has always been active in his community, coaching soccer, volunteering on various boards and civic groups so serving others came natural to him and his family.
According to Pierson, the Producer Partnership was a natural progression. He started out by donating a culled animal to help feed some local people who needed a helping hand. Someone else asked if they could participate, producers starting dropping animals off, and the project grew from there with the Producer Partnership being formed in 2020.
The success of the project speaks for itself. A whopping 96,882 pounds of animal protein was donated by the Partnership in the past two years.
The Producer Partnership is a full-fledged 501-3C non-profit and more importantly, has now installed the first-ever fully federally inspected non- processing facility on the Highland Livestock Company ranch.
The Producer Partnership's mission is “farmers and ranchers working to end hunger in Montana.”
Pierson said the organization welcomes the help of all generous Montanans and referenced the Partnership’s vision statement, an explanation of the organization’s Heart P Bar logo which reads, “The Heart P Bar is more than our brand: the Heart is a symbol of our gratitude, love, and respect for the land and the food bounty it provides us every day; the P represents a collaborative partnership of generous individuals, businesses, and community leaders; and the Bar binds us all together as one state working together to end hunger in Montana.”
The Partnerships staff is busier than ever before preparing an anticipated influx of business and this venture leaves room for volunteers to donate their time and lend a helping hand.
“Over the past two years, so many people volunteered their time to help the Producer Partnership but, in all honesty, we didn’t have much for them to do — until now,” Pierson said. “All those people who volunteered to haul a trailer to their neighbors house and pick up cull cows or said they’d run packaged beef from our place to the food bank; now is the time we’ll be taking them up on that offer.”
Of course, animal donations are welcome as well, and not just cattle. The Partnership also accepts donations of pigs, goats and sheep.
Of course, with over 3 million cows across the state, beef is the primary target. If just a half-percent of those animals were donated to the project, it would suplly approximately 375,000 pounds of ground beef to those in need in Montana. That's a lot of food for those who might go hungry without the help.
The process for donating animals is fairly simple.
A farmer or rancher selects an animal(s) from their herd. This may be a non-calf producing heifer, injured animal, a retiring cow or bull. Remember, pigs, goats and sheep can also be donated. The producer contacts Pierson or one of the local volunteers offering the donation of the animal to the Partnership.
For those in Richland County and the surrounding area, it's not necessary to haul the animals to Livingston. The Producer Partnership has multiple drop-off locations, including one right here in Fairview at Prewitt Land and Livestock. Other locations include the Public Auction Yards in Billings and Ovando, Montana.
If the animal meets the Producer Partnership's strict health and condition criteria, the producer (or an approved Partnership volunteer) loads the animal and transports it to our federally inspected processing facility. When ready, the animal is processed into hamburger. One cow can produce between 350 to 450 pounds of hamburger.
So what happens to the beef? All of the beef is distributed to non-profit organizations across the state of Montana.
After processing at the Livingston facility and the frozen hamburger is ready for pickup, the Partnership contacts a local food bank, community center or other approved non-profit agency. The hamburger is either delivered by a Partnership volunteer or picked up by the receiving organization for individual distribution to those with food insecurity. The producer who donated the animal then receives a tax letter to claim their tax credit based on the number of hamburger pounds donated to the food bank.
Pierson encourages any producer to consider a donation.
“The more animals donated, the more we can do,” he said.
If you want to know more about the Producer Partnership, donating animals or time, call Matt Pierson at 406-220-7223 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about them at producerpartnership.com