TASTY PIG PROJECT
Let me introduce you to my friend Linda and her tasty pig project, but first, a word about marketing.
Over the years a number of customers have told me of their own interest in becoming farmers. They ask me questions: “How do you know when to plant squash?” “How do you deal with pests in tomatoes?” “Which cover crop rotation patterns do you follow?” I respond as best I can, but when someone seems serious on going into agriculture I qualify my answers with an admonition; finding success with farming is only half about production– the other half of any agricultural equation is marketing. Some people don’t want to hear that because they want to believe that small farms are set in a bucolic corner of the world that’s as pure as Eden and free from moral contamination by the snakes from the marketing department. I tell them to plant a backyard garden.
I like marketing. If I believe in something I find that it easy and fun to do sales. I like the challenge of production too. We farmers are smart if we learn from our own failures, but we’re really smart when we can learn from someone else’s “experience.” One of the most satisfying things about life as a farmer is the camaraderie I’ve found with other farmers. There aren’t many farmers left, compared to times past, and even though we may be in competition with each other to secure a niche in a demanding market, it’s a rare farmer who isn’t happy to help out a fellow farmer when asked, which brings me back to Linda. As I’ve gone about raising livestock I’ve run into occasional problems and she’s always been happy to share her knowledge with me.
Linda has a ranch in Carmel Valley where she raises cows, goats, sheep, and pigs. Her son’s are the 10th generation to live on their land. How do you do that in California? You come up with De Anza, start ranching, and don’t quit! I went to school with Linda’s little brother and sister from 3rd grade on, and when I was in the Future Farmers of America vocational program in High School her father helped me out a lot with my beef steers. Now I have an opportunity to show my appreciation. Julia’s internet driven marketing program has become an integral part of our farm’s business plan. As we’ve gone about selling our own vegetables over the web we’ve seen that our supporters have an interest in connecting with other small scale, local producers. Having a wider range of items adds interest to our own list of produce so we’ve seen fit to help Elias and Yi Ling sell their free rangechicken eggs, Rebecca sell her sheep’s milk cheeses and lamb. Now we are adding Linda’s boxes of pastured pork to the mix.
Linda has always raised pigs. Besides the Tongan luau market Linda raises piglets for 4-H kids to raise for show. But modern pigs, especially prize-winning, lean, muscular show pigs, have lost something essentially porky in their quest for blue ribbons and golden trophies. So Linda has been researching pigs all over again. In one of the photos taken on her ranch you can see her little striped piglets running around. These are ½ wild boar- ½ Duroc piglets, and they will be super tasty too, but Linda has settled on the Berkshire pig, slaughtered at around six months of age, as the best breed to focus on for flavorful, pastured pork. The Berkshire pig was the very first domestic breed of swine to carry a pedigree and the animal scientists never bred out their old-time porky flavor. Berkshires aren’t as problematic to raise as their wild boar cousins, either. Linda’s Berkshires get to wander around in the field. A happy pig has a routine; eat, sleep, and nose around in the soil again, looking for worms or grubs, and if it’s hot they like to make a wallow and go back to sleep.
Two mom pigs with their litters
all photos by Linda F. of her pigs. Text by Andy.