Farming New Fields: Meat market secures farm’s future

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CANFIELD, Ohio – When Urban Moore married Marietta Goodman in the 1870s and they began to farm on the half of her parent’s farm that she would inherit in 1891, they were creating something they hoped would hold generations together.

The Moore farm on Western Reserve Road became the homestead for the next four generations of Moores. Bob and Sue Moore came there as newlyweds in the 1960s. Now their children, Jim and Mary Alice, both make their homes on the farm.

And when Jim and his wife, Mary, add an expected child to the family, it will begin the sixth generation of the Moore family on the Mahoning County farm.

The appearance, the size, and the work of the Moore farm has changed continually over the last 125 years.

In each generation, the Moore family has had to renew its search for new fields that would add a little more to the family enterprise and keep it strong for the next generation.

The enterprise that Bob Moore’s father, Ralph, started in the basement of the family home in the 1940s, has now grown into a farm market and butcher shop strong enough to allow both Jim and his sister Mary Alice to return to the farm to work alongside their parents.

In this generation it wasn’t a decision of whether or not there was a place for them back on the farm after they finished college. They just had to decide if that was what they really wanted to do.

“It’s what we’ve always done,” Mary Alice said of her decision to come home after she received a history degree at Youngstown State.

Bob went to Ohio University in Athens, where he majored in environmental geography. But he said he always knew he was coming back to farm after he finished.

He started trying to help cut pork with a table knife when he was 18 months old. He has been working in the butcher operation ever since.

Now he has taken over the grain farming operations while Bob is specializing in the cattle feeding side of the farm.

But all four Moores put in their time in the butcher shop, cutting and processing the pork carcasses that will be sold as ham, bacon, sausage, ribs, roasts, and steaks.

If the younger generation hadn’t decided to return, Bob Moore said he and his wife would probably have closed the on-site butcher shop to operate the farm as a more traditional grain and cattle feeder enterprise.

Jim and Mary Alice have some ideas about operational changes they might make, but both say they really plan on sustaining the family business at about the level it is now.

“It’s making a good living for three families,” Mary Alice said. “That’s not bad.”

The farm has 104 acres, 75 of that from the original homestead. The Moores also lease an additional 250 acres.

They raise soybeans as a cash crop, and devote the rest of their land, in one way or another, to the meat market operation, raising primarily hay and wheat, as well as keeping much of the land in pasture.

Through the market they sell 450 to 500 hogs, and up to 100 cattle each year.

They purchase 80 to 100 dairy feeders to raise to market weight, and then have them killed and processed at a slightly larger farm operation in Lisbon.

The beef is returned packaged and ready to sell for the freezer in whole, half, or quarter beef packages, or to walk-in customers who want to buy by the cut.

The Moores no longer raise hogs. As they moved into cattle, they found they didn’t have the room. They buy whole carcasses from two farms to do the cutting and processing.

The Moore market is particularly known for its smoked pork side meat – honey cured and dry smoked in an old-fashioned smoke house fired from an open kettle with specialty woods.

Bob has two wood lots with cherry, hickory, and other fruit woods that he raises especially for his smoking operation, and he is more than willing to smoke to order.

They also sell a lot of ham. But that market has also changed. Instead of the whole 16- to 18-pound hams the Moores used to produce and sell, they now specialize in a small 1- to 2- pound boneless ham that flies out the front door in quantity.

Bob developed and perfected the technique for cutting and curing these minis a few years ago.

They continue to specialize in scrapple, a cornmeal mush mixed with meat, using an old family recipe that Sue Moore thinks goes back to Marietta Moore.

The difference these days, she said, is that while the most important ingredient used to be the fat that floated over the top, now they produce a very low-fat version to suit modern tastes.

And they also have a few requests for such specialty items as crackling, suet-based mince, real lard, organ meats, and liver pudding.

In the 1930s, Ralph Moore began milking cows and put 19 milking stanchions into the barn. Then in the 1940s he began to butcher, first for his neighbors, then for meat to sell.

When the house was remodeled in the late 1940s, the butchering operation moved outside into a small wooden garage with a wooden smoke house built along side.

Two or three additions were added before the building burned in 1984, and a larger concrete market building was rebuilt on the same location.

Eventually the wooden smokehouse was torn down and replaced with an addition to the concrete building.

As Bob Moore took over from his father in the 1960s, he dismantled the milking operation, and built pens in the barn to raise more hogs.

Then in the 1980s he added beef, only a few dairy feeders to supplement the pork at first. In 1990 he dismantled the layer operation that had earlier been installed in the horse barn, sold all the chickens, and began buying more cattle feeders.

By this time, the butchering operation had grown so large that the Moores were running regular routes, making home deliveries in Canfield in Youngstown.

They were butchering and processing both beef and pork, and selling by the side.

The butchering stopped when health laws changed and they were told they would have to install a butchering floor and have a meat inspector onsite whenever animals were being killed.

At the same time, they decided to begin selling meat by the cut, since that is how they would be getting it back from Chamberlain Farms in Lisbon, where they began taking their dairy feeders for butchering.

Now they provide the Chamberlain operation with pork to sell in exchange for getting their feeder cattle butchered and packaged.

“We have established our business on providing our customers with fresh, good meat – meat that is a lot closer to the hog than that available in the supermarket,” said Bob Moore.

They do no real advertising, but the market does a booming business over the holidays, from November through New Years. This year they processed 63 hogs in December, with nothing left over to sell later.

They have regular customers who come from across the country – mostly people who grew up in the area, return here for the holidays, and want both ham and smoked meat for Christmas and fresh meat to take home.

One of their customers regularly takes 50 pounds of ham back to Alaska.

But they also have regular customers from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Warren, Hubbard, and every other point within driving distance of the market.

Now that both Bob and Mary Alice are home, they no longer operate only from May through December, but are able to stay open year ’round.

Moore Farms is located at 7393 Western Reserve Road, Canfield, just off Route 62, 330-533-5821. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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