sustainable hog farming
Wendy Baroli is a happy farmer. It even says so in her email signature. She’s happy for many reasons including a productive, profitable small farm, a penchant for heritage breeds and her healthy contribution to the planet. But what she seems most happy about is her small farm business model that brings the customers to her, reduces overheads and provides clients a custom farming experience that’s become a way of life.
Baroli comes from a family of farmers, Italian immigrants that farmed organically because they were too poor to do otherwise, but never planned on actually being a farmer. In fact, politician seemed more up her alley. But then she discovered the truth about politics: there’s only so much you can do from the sidelines. She wanted to be the change.
News Release – The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) has released a new report entitled Conservation Practices in Outdoor Hog Production Systems: Findings and Recommendations from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
The report, written by N.C. State University animal science Research Associate Silvana Pietrosemoli, explains strategies for reducing the environmental impacts of outdoor hog production systems, which can pose environmental risks if not properly managed.
When Ralph and Kimberlie Cole began seeking a source for organic produce in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, they had no idea that they would become a source. In 1996, spurred by dissatisfaction with the conventionally grown food options in their area, the couple, both environmental scientists, started down the path toward home food production.
“We wanted to be more sustainable and actually produce what we consumed,” Kimberlie recalled.
For Paul and Ember Crivellaro, of Hamburg, Pa.’s Country Time Farm, raising heritage pigs came as somewhat of a necessity, but has developed into a deep respect for people’s health and the animals themselves. In the early 1980s, the couple began raising pigs to sell to farmers. Their business held steady for a while until the hog market fell out in 1996. “We were giving pigs away at 15 cents a pound,” reflects Paul Crivellaro.
Large-scale, aka industrial, hog farming is a big business in North Carolina. It’s also a large-scale source of water and air pollution, including the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane, which by weight is 21x more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.
Visiting a farm where pigs and hogs are raised, or even living anywhere near an ‘industrial’ hog farm, can be a decidedly unpleasant olfactory experience. But when visiting Herbert Pantua’s 1.6-hectare farm, where he raises 200 hogs and some 300 chickens, people say “they can only pick up the scent of fresh basil, oregano, lavender and many other herb varieties,” according to an Inquirer news report.
It turns out that Mr. Pantua is a strict and rigorous practitioner of his own, homegrown organic farming operation, growing vegetables and herbs and raising his livestock solely with fermented crops as feed as opposed to synthetic feeds. Pantua, in other words, is raising vegetarian hogs.
In 1998, the bottom fell out of the hog market. There was a surplus in supply. Pork was selling as low as 14 cents per pound. It was also only the fourth year that Greg and Lei Gunthorp had been managing their hog operation in LaGrange, Indiana.
The pressure was on. While 90% of hog farmers have gone out of business since 1980, Gunthorp Farms has added land, expanded markets, and hired help. They’ve been able to do so because Greg Gunthorp farms differently.
This year, Gunthorp will sell 1,500 hogs, 70,000 chickens, 15,000 ducks, and a small number of turkeys. As a vertically integrated operation, Gunthorp oversees every part of the process, from field to plate. This includes raising the animals, growing feed, processing and cutting meats, and direct marketing to restaurants, retail establishments, and customers.