A new partnership between area ranchers, meat processors, and the Park County Community Foundation is slated to provide nearly 10,000 pounds of high-quality, locally raised beef to feed the hungry.
The Producer Partnership started less than a month ago after one of Matt Pierson’s ranch hands at Highland Livestock Company made a joke about feeding the hungry with all the hamburger walking around on the ranch. The comment caused Pierson to launch an effort to get donated cattle from area ranchers, process them and then donate the meat to local food- based nonprofits.
“We were thinking about people who weren’t able to go to work, people who are struggling, who might be hungry,” Pierson said. “One of the guys said, ‘Oh man! Look at all this hamburger walking around.’ We realized we have what we need in Park County, we just have to get it to the people. We want to take care of our own people, to help our own.”
A large swath of Park County’s ranching community has so far donated more than 20 cows. Others have donated money to pay for the processing of the cattle, which Matt’s Meats and Pioneer Processing in Big Timber are handling. The Park County Community Foundation quickly partnered with Pierson with a seed funding from the Park County COVID-19 Resilience Fund. They also set up a Fund to help facilitate donations. Within the first week they had raised over $10,000.
“This project really highlights the strength of our community and our ability to rally around each other in times of need,” said Gavin Clark, Park County Community Foundation Executive Director. “From the Ag community, local businesses, and donors, the amount of support for this program across Park County has been amazing,”
Jordan Aller at the Spur Line helped Pierson send out an initial letter to Park County’s ranching community that asked for help. The response they received has stunned everyone, including local food nonprofits who rarely receive donations of fresh, high-quality beef. For non-profits that feed the hungry in Park County, beef is a rare commodity even in the best of times. Recently, the supply of beef has started to dry up, said Michael McCormick, director the Livingston Food Resource Center.
“The tremendous generosity that is being expressed by Matt and the other participating ranchers is remarkable,” said Michael McCormick Executive Director of the Livingston Food Resource Center. “Their efforts are making beef available to food pantries all over the state during a time of great need.”
Producer Partnership has also provided beef to The Gardiner Food Bank, Counterpoint, Loaves and Fishes and others. Rosa Simmons, the director of Loaves and Fishes, says they often receive donations of expired beef even in the best of times. The donations from local ranchers have allowed her staff and volunteers to cook spaghetti, Shepherd’s pie, chili, tacos and beef stew.
“Having fresh beef is really a treat,” Simmons said. “We greatly appreciate what the community is doing for us.”
Pierson hopes to scale up the partnership and has been talking with the Montana Beef Council, the Montana Stockgrowers Association and others to take the effort state-wide. He coordinates the partnership from his work truck often while doctoring calves. He uses AirPods so that his hands remain free.
“People don’t know what I’m doing until a calf bawls in my ear,” he said. “Then people are like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘You don’t want to know.’”
To donate, go to https://www.pccf-montana.org/for-donors/donate-now.html, and click the ‘Producer Partnership’ button.
More information can be found at: https://www.montanabeefcouncil.org/our-kitchen/producer- partnership
The Park County Community Foundation
Founded by community leaders in 2005, the Park County Community Foundation seeks to connect caring people and resources with the most pressing community needs and opportunities.
We believe many of Park County’s challenges can be solved through mutual understanding, better cooperation and a robust culture of philanthropy. To realize these goals, PCCF is committed to three primary principles: Learn, Engage, and Give. The Park County Community Foundation is a trusted, dynamic and distinctive philanthropic leader that fosters collaborative community action to shape a healthy, caring community. Learn more at www.pccf-montana.org.