A Vision in the Making

As the year comes to a close, I’m giddy with excitement like my teenage daughter Holly Kate on Christmas Eve. Even though it’s the right time of year, there’s a different reason.

Longtime readers of this column know the Florida agriculture industry has long been a central focus of mine. Twelve years ago, I started a custom meat-processing business called Chop-N-Block to help hunters process their meat in a clean, safe, and professional environment. That business has served a crucial role, and because of that, it was embraced by many in the community. 

I feel a similar calling now. 

Two years ago, I set up an autonomous mobile meat processing operation powered by generators, and we started processing animals from local county fairs. We served eight counties and processed roughly 500 head of hogs and steers for these communities. 

In January, I’m opening a fully USDA-inspected, professionally run meat processing and slaughter operation to serve the 28 county fairs within our service area.

Beyond these county fairs, the USDA inspection will mean we can deliver into any retail or food-service operation.  

For the first four months of the year, our focus will be on processing the hogs and steers from the county fairs. For the rest of the year, we’ll work with local ranchers, buying their animals at fair market value. 

The best part is that we’ll be able to share the love back to my growers. It’s the quintessential epitome of a cooperative. And, just maybe, this will help those in the community stay in the farming and ranching business and enable them to pass the land down to their children. 

The plan speaks to the technological advancement and innovativeness of the ag community, farmers, and ranchers, providing locally grown Florida-based protein products.

I’ve spoken to many people in surrounding counties, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

A life in agriculture is hard enough, but if you’re going to be in the food and fiber space, you have to work with your neighbor. We’re all fighting disease and pestilence, all fighting global competition and emerging markets. That means it’s imperative that we work together to help pay each other’s bills. 

That is exactly what I am doing. 

There are currently only four big meat processors in the United States controlling this sector, and the pandemic exposed even more weaknesses in the supply chain. It’s about time we bring this function back to the local and state level. 

Stay tuned for more information because this is just the beginning of my vision. 

This article is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of Central Florida Ag News or of its advertisers.

BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.

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