Mountain Scene: Swift Level Revives the Meat Market

Swift Level Fine Meats recently opened its doors in Fairlea, WV to provide quality-cut meat and products. Jennifer “Tootie” Jones is the owner of Swift Level Farm in Lewisburg. For many years, she has been raising and wholesaling beef cattle for restaurants, farmer’s markets, and private clients. For the last 12 years, her dream was to open a shop featuring her beef alongside the region’s best farm raised meats. She wanted a place where farms could increase production for customers asking for locally grown meats. Tootie’s dream came to fruition on June 29th, 2017, when the doors to Swift Level Fine Meats officially opened.

Sourcing everything from Swift Level Farm and nearby farms, Tootie strives to have a positive impact on the local farm economy and change the way people think about their food. You can trust that your meats is coming from farms right here in West Virginia. At Swift Level Fine Meats you will find beautiful cuts of USDA cuts of skirt steak, brisket, chuck roast, ground beef and ground brisket, tenderloin, rib eye, lamb, pork, and fresh or smoked trout. You can also get WVDA Farm Exempt Poultry including Chicken, Cornish, Turkey, French Guinea, and Pheasant. There’s also pure and delicious JQ Dickenson salt and pepper out of Malden WV; and Spangler’s organic Greenhouse popcorn, which is produced locally in Lindside, WV.

Tootie’s Swift Level Farm raises and sells all grass finished beef, pastured pork, and lamb. As a producer, she adheres to organic standards, yet the beef is not certified organic because the slaughter/processor is not certified as an organic slaughter facility and, consequently, that takes her out of the equation. She tells us there are many regulations necessary to comply with labeling, in an ever-changing labeling world. Tootie says, “My steers are only fed our forages, grasses, hay and they drink our spring water and are offered free choice organic kelp and minerals. The steers mature naturally on managed pasture and are only taken to process when their carcass is mature and ready.  The goal is developing a good fat cap and marble throughout for a very tasty piece of meat! This is greatly influenced by genetics, diet, and lifestyle. The quality of the product is also influenced by processing, dry age hanging appropriate for each carcass and how it is cut by our butcher, and lastly, how you, the customer, cooks the meat and cuts the meat.  We can all do our very best to produce a great product, yet the final moments are in the consumers hands.”

Working with nearby farms, Swift Level Fine Meats supports many of them that are fully invested into the local economy. Tootie tells us these farms spend an extraordinary amount of investment in services and products drilling the dollar deeply into the local cultural and economic system. She goes onto say that agriculture is vastly underestimated as an economic driver in WV. “It is helpful to recognize that many farms have equipment that totals half to a million dollars. They purchase seed, fertilizer, feeds, develop water systems, build fencing, fuel, accounting, marketing, processing, veterinarians, mechanics while feeding, restaurants, tourism, and retail. Let’s not forget property taxes and newly imposed rental taxes, all of which keep these counties fluid.” When we see a piece of meat, Tootie wants us to think way beyond that and, instead, see that open piece of farmland driving the economy of local businesses. She says, “While our state focus has been on other economic drivers, our farmers, producers, markets, purveyors, non conventional lenders supporting this business are lost in the data. What an overlooked asset.  The Greater Greenbrier Valley and West Virginia’s scenic assets contribute greatly to escalated property values based on the backs of very hard working, good people who are never recognized.”

Tootie’s background is made up of a lifetime of work, passion, and paying attention to those who taught her. As a child, she fell in love with markets on Summers Street in Charleston, WV. Her mother would visit each vendor and it captured Tootie with intrigue and mystery.  She tells us, “That spark came back to life traveling throughout rural Spain in the 80’s and many other trips to rural foreign lands. I did not know how, when and where, but I knew this was something I would eventually get into. I rolled up my sleeves, got back into cattle and into beef. There is a difference in both.” Since this time, Tootie has been raising cattle and following each one to the plate. She tells us she has to understand the impact of grass, life, genetics, butchery, processing, chefs, and customers.

Tootie’s mission has always remained the same at its core, which is to love the land and water first because without it, we have nothing. She says, “I am utterly grateful to wake up each day on this sacred ground. By tending to the soils and grasses, we have healthy, fat cattle who, in turn, replenish the soil with their organic nature. That is a natural cycle of life. I honor these great animals who’s lives in turn feed our community.” Tootie’s extends her mission to those in need by sending meat to a soup kitchen to provide care andnourishment. She says, “If my goal was to place only a monetary value on the life of a living creature, kill it, sell it, and not to give back to those who are in need, all would be for naught.”

The new store has been successful since its opening and is seeing a growing base of new customers. Tootie tells us, “The public is searching for good, clean, direct-from-farm meats that have credibility and a connection to a person they can talk to, a place of origin and accountability of product.  Consumers want to know what they are eating, and they deserve to know that.”

Fire up the grill this August with fresh cut, exceptionally marbled, ribeyes from Swift Level Fine Meats! They are located at 836 Maplewood Ave, across from the State Fairgrounds on Rt. 219 South. Store hours are Monday-Saturday from 10am-6:30pm. Custom orders and questions are welcome. For more information, visit SwiftLevelFineMeats.com or call 304-645-1020. You can find them @swiftlevelfinemeats on facebook and @swiftlevel on instagram.

– HashtagWV #92. August 2017.

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