Meet the class of 2024

In my last newsletter I said, "As a farmer, one learns to accept with grace what nature does to plans." Yep. The only thing that sentence was missing was how often it happens.

The plan for this year was to raise Berkshire pigs as usual, but just four of them because of the uncertainty about inflation, the economy, and the fact that my customers last fall got jumbo orders due to unanticipated gluts of apples, pears, and acorns.

The plan was for for my breeder's Berkshire sow to farrow in January and I'd pick up weaned piglets in March, to have ready for butcher in the fall. But the sow didn't produce piglets for a couple cycles.

Time for Plan B. Pig breeds can be divided into rooters and grazers, and berks are rooters. My pastures are a mix of silvopasture and grassy areas that the pigs rotate through, and since I started raising berks I've had trouble keeping the grassy areas under control. Untamed grass is a fire danger and if it gets trampled instead of grazed or mowed, it creates a mat that doesn't allow lush or nutritious grass the following year.

I used to raise American Guinea Hogs and Kune Kunes. They're both grazer breeds so I had no grass problem, but they are small homestead breeds and slow to grow, so I got interested in Idaho Pasture Pigs as a larger grazer. The IPP breed is a cross between the Red Wattle, Duroc, and Kune Kune breeds and gain weight quickly on pasture forage. IPPs are also reputed to produce deeply red pork with excellent marbling and flavor. However, at that time the only breeders I could find were up around Rainier, requiring a long drive made longer by the need to get through Portland traffic with a livestock trailer.

So this year I decided to look around again for IPP breeders.

It didn't take long for me to find Spring Chicken Farms, a registered IPP breeder in Lyons. It took even less time to contact them and find out they had four piglets that had just been weaned and would be ready for release the next weekend. So on February 10 I drove to Lyons and picked them up. As with all piglets, they are the cutest.

The pork from these four pigs will be available for purchase in Fall 2024 but there are still a number of unknowns: an exact butcher date, a weight estimate, a possible new way I can offer it for sale and still meet regulations, and how good the pork will be. I'm hearing that there's growing demand from the public for IPP pork but I haven't tasted it myself. Of course I'll be working to maximize flavor and tenderness by how I raise and feed them.

You are welcome to visit the farm, meet the pigs, walk the pastures (bring sturdy shoes or boots), and smell their fresh, locally sourced and milled supplemental feed. Just contact me.

4 IPP piglets arrive in the trailer

Quotes and Trivia

Some days in Washington DC I feel like this little white calf here. I look around and say “How’d I get here? What am I doing here? Do I belong here.” The farm has taught me how to be more patient and that’s the greatest resource I think you have to have in Washington DC.

– Thomas Massie, transcript of a portion of “Off the Grid with Thomas Massie”
Sep 26, 2018

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