Matt McNany has “basically been farming since he could walk,” says his mother, Lynna McNany, who is Bon Appétit’s operations manager at Grove City College.
“When he was little, like 6 or 7, he came to me and said, ‘I want to buy turkeys. I want to raise them and sell them at Thanksgiving,’” recalls Lynna with a smile in her voice. She and her husband staked him, and Matt paid them back and “made enough money to buy his own four-wheeler that year!” The middle son, Matt grew up on the family farm a few miles outside of Grove City, PA. The McNanys raised horses and cows and chickens, and always sold “freezer beef ” (whole animals direct to consumer). Their kids were big into 4-H and rodeos. But Matt embraced the farming side a lot more than his two siblings, and in fact has made it his business since he was 16.
In 2011, when he was 16, he again came to Lynna and said he wanted to get a job. Pickings were slim, and “he’s not the kind of kid who could work at a fast food restaurant,” she explains. Grove City College’s then–executive chef was looking to expand his Farm to Fork roster, particularly in locally raised meat, and suggested that maybe Matt could expand the McNanys’ beef herd. Lynna and her husband had a serious talk with Matt about the responsibility, and he was game. 5M Farms was born.
There was a learning curve. Not only did Matt have to grow his herd fast in order to supply the volume the college needed, but he had to get liability insurance on the farm and a vehicle to transport the cattle. He had to get inspected, and he had to figure out how to keep his herd healthy without antibiotics and fatten them without added hormones, to meet Bon Appétit standards. Lynna and Matt called their vet for help, to teach them about different feeds and ways to treat the calves when they have runny noses.
Just two years later, when Matt turned 18, he graduated and took over the farm full-time. He raises 15 to 20 head at a time, keeping track of where each is in its growth cycle so he can deliver about 500 pounds of ground beef a week, and bones that the Bon Appétit team uses to make stock. He also still sells freezer beef, and when he has extra, he supplies local restaurants.
“Matthew has been the driver of the company. He’s a great young man, and the relationship is phenomenal,” says General Manager JonErik Germadnik.
Matt always comes to the college on Bon Appétit’s Eat Local Challenge Day, setting up a table and talking to students his own age about farming. “Students don’t think about where their meat comes from, but when they talk to him, they really get it,” says Lynna proudly. “And he loves seeing them enjoy his beef.” Partnering with Bon Appétit has been a dream come true, says Matt: “Farming has always been a passion of mine and being able to work with Bon Appétit has turned that dream into a reality.”