First-Generation Farmers Produce Fresh Pork Products

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When Candice Morgan’s husband Jacob brought home a piglet one day in June 2012, the Raleigh-raised, self-described “city girl” had no idea how much it would change their lives.

“An older farmer gave Jacob a pig, and we lived in a neighborhood with an HOA at the time,” Candice says.

Jacob, who works full-time as the Jones County Extension director, was determined to raise that pig, despite their suburban location.

“Pretty soon we had two pigs in our backyard, and that turned into four,” Candice says. “By then, we knew we couldn’t stay in our house anymore.”

Morgan Meats; first-generation farmers

Candice and Jacob Morgan with daughter, Ella Paityn and Mr. Toodle; Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Growing a Farm

The young couple sold their city home and began renting land in eastern North Carolina from a farmer, all the while adding more pigs to their growing herd.

Transitioning to pork production fulfilled an ambition that Jacob had fostered for years but never seriously pursued. “Jacob’s degree is in turfgrass management and agronomy, and he has always wanted to farm,” Candice says, noting that his grandfather had dabbled in agriculture. “But he never thought he could because he didn’t grow up farming.”

That’s because first-generation farmers face many challenges. For starters, it was difficult for the Morgans to find land they could afford.

“Most people don’t realize you have to put 25% down on an agriculture loan,” says Candice, noting that they’ve chosen to grow their farm debt-free. “It was challenging to acquire land we could afford and buy the equipment we needed. You can’t really compare our operation to another farmer who is 35 years old with seven tractors and thousands of acres of land, because he may be three generations in.”

See more: Pig Farmers are Stewards of Sustainability

Morgan Meats; first-generation farmers

Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Not so easily deterred, the couple began saving money, and by 2017, they were able to purchase their own 15-acre farm in Trenton and build a house on it. The next year, they bought an additional 10 acres. Along with their two children, Ella Paityn (4) and Judah (2), the family launched Morgan Meats LLC, a small business that sells fresh pork products to grocery stores, consumers, farmers markets and CSAs.

Their pork products are antibiotic-free and include multiple kinds of sausage, pork chops, ribs, Boston butts, picnic shoulders, bratwursts, bacon and specialty cuts by request. The Morgans raise all their own pigs and have about 50 animals at any given time.

“We have eight sows and one boar, and we try to have one farrowing per month,” Morgan says. “Right now, we have three litters of piglets. We do everything ourselves along with our kids, including feeding, watering, de-worming and even castration. We’ve learned to do a lot of things by watching YouTube videos.”

The family plans to add beef sales in the near future and already owns three cattle.

“Our hope is to eventually sell pork, beef and lamb,” Candice says.

Morgan Meats; first-generation farmers

Candice Morgan; Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Hard Work & Helping Hands

Morgan Meats has been successful because of two main factors – sweat equity and support from their community.

“We’re not afraid of hard work,” Candice says. “And we’ve had community members help us by renting us land or letting us borrow a trailer. Our community is very tight-knit and supportive.”

Another factor that has helped Morgan Meats thrive is North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Program, which is for young people ages 18 to 35 who want to contribute to the future of agriculture.

“Young Farmers & Ranchers has been a huge part of our success by helping us establish relationships with other like-minded people all over North Carolina,” Candice says. “It’s hard being new to farming, so we are always willing to help one another out. It’s been a good way to make friends, too.”

See more: North Carolina Pig Farmers Go Green

North Carolina pig farm

Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

A Successful Transition

Transitioning from city to farm life wasn’t easy, however, and Candice is the first to admit it.

“It was very difficult at first. I spent a lot of time crying. My husband said, ‘If you’re still crying after two years, we’ll move back,’” she recalls with a laugh. “But I found you can’t help but fall in love with agriculture. Now I love country life. I enjoy seeing our kids run to the window to see tractors roll by or playing guessing games about what’s growing in the field. I’d never go back to big-city traffic.”

Learn More

To learn more about the farm and find out how to purchase their products, follow Morgan Meats at facebook.com/morganmeats1.

She has come a long way since the day Jacob brought that first piglet to their suburban home seven years ago. Besides running the pork farm with her husband, she’s also become an active participant in the Young Farmers & Ranchers organization that provided so much support for her family. In 2018, Candice served as the program’s state chairperson, and in 2019, she is serving on the Jones County Farm Bureau Board.

“I’m the first woman on the Farm Bureau board, too,” she says. “I’m pretty proud of that.”

– Jessica Mozo

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