Continuing a custom processing tradition

Payson Kerns and Baili (Kerns) Maurer both grew up around their family’s eastern Iowa business, Edgewood Locker. This local, custom meat locker and processor in Edgewood was founded by their grandparents in 1966. The brother and sister duo continues to operate the family business as third generation owners, a responsibility shared with two of their cousins.

This past year has emphasized the importance of local meat processors due to the supply challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The meat industry is crazy right now with huge demand and the local farm-to-table movement,” Payson says.

“Our customers looked to us to continue to put meat in their freezers when everything else in the world was shutting down,” Baili adds.

Neither Payson (’17 animal science) nor Baili (’12 culinary science) intended on coming back to work at the locker when they left for college. However, Baili knew she wanted to be involved in the agriculture or food industry, which made Iowa State a perfect fit.

While attending Iowa State, Baili realized how much she missed the environment of the meat business and got a job working at the Iowa State University Meats Laboratory. She gained even more hands-on experience through her internship at Tyson Foods in their research and development area. After graduating in 2012 with a degree in culinary science and a minor in meat science, she worked for West Liberty Foods as both a food technologist and senior project leader.

“The people I met in the meat lab became valuable resources when I graduated and entered my career,” Baili says.

Payson’s college career started out a little differently than Baili’s. He began at a local community college, but decided to head to Iowa State for more opportunities. Like his sister, Payson decided to work at the Meats Lab, assisting with harvesting, packaging, sanitation and more.

“I enjoyed getting to know Payson as his advisor and instructor,” says Steven Lonergan, Morrill Professor in animal science. “He came to Iowa State with a good work ethic and an enthusiasm to learn about agriculture and especially the meat industry. His enthusiasm and hard work are a powerful combination. He is a friendly person and always has a smile (and perhaps a joke) for those around him.”

Following Payson’s graduation from Iowa State in 2017, he and Baili made the decision to buy into the family business in 2017. Their cousins Katie Anderson and Luke Kerns have also come on board to further strengthen the future of the family business.

Expansion on the horizon

The core business of Edgewood Locker is custom processing of beef, pork and venison. They also complete further processing of 90 different meat products for their wholesale and retail sector.

Their grandparents began the company with only one full-time and one part-time employee. Edgewood Locker now employs 55 people on a full-time basis and an additional 60 for part-time and seasonal help. “I know Payson and Baili will continue the strong tradition of quality and success at Edgewood Locker,” Lonergan says.

Edgewood Locker recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a 19,000 square foot addition to the facility. Once complete, the extra space will double the size of the current facility and enable the relocation of the sausage production and processing area. It also will create more space for custom processing work, add more room for employees and modernize equipment and food safety processes.

The Kerns family is very committed to the success of the community where they live, work and raise their families. Baili is a member of the Experience Edgewood community marketing committee, Payson serves on the volunteer fire department and they all help grill for the concession stand at local athletic events. They also partner with the local school to give tours, educate students about the meat industry and help provide educational opportunities such as carcass shows and workshops for 4-H youth in Clayton and Delaware counties.

“Even with our expansion on the horizon, we remain loyal to the core business of custom processing that our grandparents started,” Baili says.

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Edgewood Locker is currently booking into 2023 for custom processing. Learn more about their operation on their website.