Dale had talked for the past few years about wanting to add more animals to Merry Lea Sustainable Farm.
This wasn’t just because he loved animals — which he did — but because he knew that students in the Agroecology Summer Intensive deserved more experience working with animal agriculture in addition to exposure to vegetables, fruit, and grains. And though he only got to see us add guineas and chickens to the farm, June 2015 will forever mark the beginning of four-leggers, as I like to call them. For the past year, he and I asked questions at meetings. In talking to other farmers, we were advised to consider pigs as our next species. Other considerations: meat goats, turkeys, and ducks. Pigs have some strong advantages: they are relatively easy to find in our region, there is a ready market for them, and they are excellent recyclers of food waste and compostables (my strongest reason for favoring pigs as our next choice of livestock).
What breed did we opt to go with first? After some serious thoughts about unusual heritage breeds, which eventually we hope to raise, we opted for Duroc x Hampshire crosses from a nearby hog farmer we knew. I think this will prove to be a good idea. These pigs will be given indoor barn pens but also access to shaded outdoor pens. We also intend to supplement their organic feed (18% protein) with mulberry leaves and branches, vegetable scraps, nuts from the farm, and some pasture grasses and forbes. Let’s watch them grow! Students already love them.
– Jon Zirkle