w People ask me if I have always raised animals or if I grew up on a farm. The answer is no. My parents were one generation from the farm, back when it was an even more hardscrabble and potentially heartbreaking occupation than it is today.
When I was 6 years old, I told mom I was dropping out of first grade to be a farmer. She said, "No, you're not." and that attitude never changed, not even when I made an unexpected turn during registration at college and ended up in the Animal Science department..
I didn't become a farmer, not then and not for many years. Industrial farming practices were what was taught at college, and my first experience at a confinement hog farm was like a scene from Dante's Inferno, only with smell-o-rama. An agricultural work study in Germany showed me a different reality, though, one where animals still were pastured and more freely occupied their farms, and where the pork, beef, and chicken still had remarkable flavor. This was what I remembered and yearned for, but it wasn't a viable farming option back home in the USA.
This sad state of agricultural affairs remained in place for many more years. I took different paths through the world, none of them too fulfilling., and then things began to change.. Farmers markets struggled to life, offering an alternative option to farming, one that included raising animals in a more humane and thoughtful way, one that preserved the old breeds of animals that had almost disappeared, one that brought a new taste to the table, a new taste as old as my earliest memories. A long dormant seed wakened and stirred.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.