In the course of my farming time I have worked for two farms that kept pigs. In Arkansas, at the Heifer Ranch there were lots of pigs in all kinds of situations. Some of them lived on concrete, some of them on mud and some on pasture. They would get very excited when it was time to feed them and it sometimes felt to me a little like I was going to be eaten by them. (I had a co-worker who dared not go in with them for fear of this fate.) The pigs who were living outside seemed to have a knack for getting out of the places that they were supposed to be and I have one distinct memory of hiking through the woods in search of a missing pig.
|Pigs at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
At Caretaker Farm
in Williamstown, MA the pigs play an integral role in the system of the farm. They turn compost, which is really awesome. In order to get them to turn the large piles of materials corn is drilled into the material twice a day when they are being fed. This means that the pigs are VERY excited when you arrive because you come bearing corn. And corn is to a pig as candy is to a five year old. They cry if they don’t get it.
In both of these situations the pigs were always VERY happy to see a human because they associated humans with food. And in both of these situations, I was not entirely excited about pigs for one reason or another. Maybe it was their over-enthusiasm that got me. I suspect it was the overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t give them their dinner that I would be overpowered by them and they would make me their dinner. Given this backstory you can imagine how excited I was when pigs became a part of our farm plan here at Groundworks Farm
We decided to do our pigs outside on pasture, let them give in to their animal instincts and plow around, stir up dirt for us, get muddy. Before the pigs arrived we built an area for them where they would be able to get inside the barn for warmth as well as go outside and get fresh air, food and water. Later in the spring they will move around pasture and eat grass. For now they are digging up bits of grass from under the snow.
|Groundworks Farm pigs finding some grass to snack on
The other thing about our system is a awesome feeder that Kevin made. It is made entirely out of things that we had lying around as well as a 55 gallon drum that we found on the side of the road with a “free” sign on it. Inside the 55 gallon drum is a pyramid made out of plywood that forces the grain to fall down into the main feeder area out of the holes cut in the drum at the bottom. This can hold about 300 pounds of grain. Right now that means that the feeder only needs to be filled about once a week.
Consequentially, the pigs do not run right up to you when you enter their pen, although they are coming around. I am trying to get in the habit of giving them a rub so that they will not be adverse to humans. Strangely though, with the loss of complete excitement about being seen by them, all of a sudden, I am in love with the pigs. This has never happened to me before. I find them cuter, but they are not so sure about me. I hang around in their pen, trying to get them to like me, or at least not be so adverse to my presence.
And so it seems to be the case that for me and pigs; it is destined to be a one-sided love story.
|I walk away as the pigs happily feast
Groundwork Farm Pasture-raised Pork will be available for purchase starting in June 2011. For more information on purchasing our pork and other meat products click here!