A Head Pat, A Donut, and a Thank You: CSA Summer 2017 – Week #16
For the sixth season in a row, we raised pigs on our farm this year.
We get them from a conventional breeder in Waunakee when they are about 40 lbs. We transfer them from their farm to ours in dog crates and then I drive them in a pick-up truck back to our farm.
The pigs (this year we raised 4), generally take a while to get used to their new surroundings. Before coming to our farm, they’ve never been outside and have only been on concrete. Here there’s sun, wind, rain, grass, mud, bugs, and a nearby road. It’s a lot for them to adjust to.
We usually unload them from the dog crates straight into their shelter and keep them in the shelter for a few days with food and water. That way they get used to the new environment and stay nice and warm on their first few spring nights here. (We get them in early May).
The pigs are great fun to have around. First and foremost, they are excellent compost devourers. We purchase organic grain for them and only buy half the amount that is recommended. The other half of their calories comes from farm waste… a crate of old cucumbers here, a bucket of split tomatoes there, unsold and past sweet corn, etc.
It’s pretty amazing to watch them eat. An entire muskmelon will be gone in under a minute and then on to the next one. The amount they can consume is phenomenal! Their favorite foods are sweet corn, tomatoes, and melons. They will tolerate other vegetables as well… but they are like kids, in that they always go for the their starchy grain first.
Another reason we love having the pigs around is for our kids and all of your kids who visit the farm! Seeing carrots and broccoli in the fields is neat and all, but if you’re a kid, pigs are usually way more fascinating. They screech and oink and run and eat and poop… all the fun things.
After being on our farm from May through September, we do harvest the pigs. In other words, they are slaughtered at a processing house and cut into various tasty cuts of meat.
A few customers buy some of the pigs (in the form of half a pig), and the rest we save for ourselves and as gifts to family members who do so much to help our farm operation. Mike’s folks help watch the kids every Saturday morning while I’m at market. Mike’s Dad also helps out in many ways, often driving tractor for us and helping us move equipment back and forth from our farm to the Pioneer fields. My Dad helps Mike with many hours of repair jobs on farm harvest carts, water irrigation units, and tractors. My Mom is our trusty back-up sitter.
We like being able to thank our family in the form of delicious pork raised on organic grain and organic vegetables.
I also like to thank our pigs. They really are beautiful animals. They are smart too. I sometimes have trouble looking the pigs right in the eye because it’s hard for me to see that intelligence and know their destiny on my plate. Even though I don’t name the pigs, I get to know each of them individually, with their different habits and personalities.
The week they go on the trailer to the processor is always a hard one for me emotionally. The messiness of being a carnivore is front and center. I remind myself that they are domesticated animals, existing purely through the connection of humans and their desire for meat. I remind myself that I have given them a super happy life as far as pigs go. They are in a pen, true, but they have ample space, ample food, and ample exposure to the great outdoors – unlike what their lives would have been like at the conventional grower’s farm.
But in the end, after we peacefully load them on the trailer, (and we do do it peacefully, as they are trained to walk on voluntarily) they will be killed for me and my family. Literally it is through eating their bodies that I nourish my own and my children’s. I am grateful for the nourishment they provide. I am grateful for the intimacy of all that messiness. I do choose to eat meat. I do choose to kill another animal to nourish myself. But I appreciate that at our farm I can make that choice intimately. I raise, care for, and become attached to the very animals that will nourish me.
This Thursday, on their last morning here, I will put on my pig pen boots, hop into the pen, and rub the head of each animal and say thank you to each one. I’ll hand feed them a donut as I do this. I’m usually pretty teary. It’s my way of saying good bye and thanking them for the gift they offer. Then I will load them on their red trailer.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your veggies!
In the Box:
- Chinese Cabbage
- Delicata Squash
- Onion, Sweet Yellow
- Potato, Small Russets
- Pepper, Colored Bells &/OR Sweet Fryers
- Green Beans
- Head Lettuce
- Brussels Sprouts