My favorite picture of the hogs from last year is this one - I think it sums up our farm ethic in a glance. Heritage hogs - English Large Blacks - out grazing in a diversified pasture that is up past their bellies, and they are covered in mud. Those are some contented, healthy pigs!
The land and what we grow on it is the foundation of our whole program here at Farm 2 Fork Pork. And I'll be making a presentation on our use of diversified pasture, fermented feed, and the use of herbs in raising pork this May at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, AR. Being chosen to make this presentation is exciting, and it most certainly is an honor. But why, might you ask, is a pig farmer presenting at an herbal conference?
The easy answer is, a lot of people in this area eat pork. If they are what they eat, so is a pig what it eats. Given an opportunity, the pastured pig will choose different things to eat depending on the age of the animal, the stage of maturity of the plant, what the pig needs, and what tastes good. We give them some fermented feed daily, because this populates their cecum with intestinal flora that aid in the digestion of vegetative matter, as well as providing probiotics for improved health. We give them herbs that enhance their overall well being, that add minerals that are deficient in their diet, such as magnesium and calcium, and that assist the breeding females with their reproductive cycles. Some of these herbs are organic, dried herbs, some are grown in their pastures.
In our pastures, we have gone from a patchy, monocropped (fescue), hard patch of field to a diverse biome that includes various forage plants and native plants, including herbs. The pigs eradicate weed plants, such as Johnson grass and thistle, contribute manure, and do a thorough job of tilling and loosening the soil. In addition to clover, turnips, alfalfa, radishes, cowpeas, buckwheat, and rapeseed, they also eat the seed heads of plantain, the tender new leaves of chicory, and roots of dandelion, as well as many others. In the picture above, the hog is deep in one of our improved pasture lots, and at the top of the picture, you can see the fescue only lot that was replaced by it.
More plainly, our pasture plots went from looking like this...
You can bet that I will be learning a lot at the herbal conference that I can bring home and use in the fields as we update and continue to improve our grazing program, as well as the health and flavor of our hogs.
If you are interested in the herbal conference, please check it out. Their herbal conferences and workshops are truly quality events. http://www.ozarkfolkcenter.com/calendar-of-events/details.aspx?id=130267
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.