Dig Deeper


Transition to Organic: Waste Management

Managing agricultural wastes such as manure, spent silage, culled fruits and vegetables, and other organic residuals can be a significant burden to farming and greenhouse operations. As agricultural wastes increase on-site, so do the potentials for plant and animal pathogens to persist and become a serious problem to production.

Improperly managed piles can also become noxious and pose serious threats to soil and water quality. As a result, governmental agencies require specific and often complex storage, handling and disposal procedures for various waste materials. Handling procedures become even more rigid for organic production systems. However, if the material is managed successfully, then what was once a problematic waste product becomes a valuable agricultural resource. (more…)

Field Equipment Specialist Needed

Rodale Institute is seeking a Field/Equipment Specialist to fulfill the primary task completing orchard/field related responsibilities which includes the certified organic orchard and routine management of all farm equipment.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

♦  Work in a team environment to conduct day-to-day field operations in relationship to apple production in research and production areas: Field responsibilities include but are not limited to; spraying, orchard floor management and harvesting.
♦  Work in a team environment to support day-to-day field operations in relationship to horticultural and agronomic crop production in research and production areas: Field responsibilities include but are not limited to; tillage, weed management, planting, and harvesting.
♦  Document field operations on Institute forms to satisfy organic certification requirements, research data collection needs, and Institute financial accounting.
♦  Manage the equipment maintenance to perform routine maintenance on equipment necessary to support all farm functions.
♦  Conduct field and farm inspection for needed tasks and consult with farm director on weekly priorities.
♦  Work with all other teams; compost, landscaping, livestock, ASC, , greenhouse, and research as time allows supporting their goals and objectives.
♦  Other duties may/will be assigned on a case by case and as-needed basis.

QUALIFICATIONS: Must be able and willing to work in all types of weather, be able to lift in excess of 50 pounds, have good communications skills – (both written and verbal), and be flexible in hours as farm work can be unpredictable

EDUCATION and/or EXPERIENCE: Must have a bachelor’s degree and/or 5 years of experience in organic horticultural or agronomic crop production and agricultural equipment repair and maintenance. Should have a working knowledge of metal welding and general mechanical skills.

TRAVEL: Minimal travel required.

Interested applicants may submit a cover letter and resume to linda.carlson@rodaleinstitute.org

Farm Photo Friday: November 7, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Our team at the Rodale Institute does not slow down once the colder weather approaches! Michael Schmaeling from the Strategic Solutions Team is starting the frame work for one of our new greenhouses. Greenhouses are sealed against winter weather to encourage year-round growing.

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Measurements are key! Greenhouses generally range from 14 to 34 feet wide and 10 to 15 feet tall.

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Looks like step one is finished, great job Michael!

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Bill Lenhard from Facilities is getting rid of some loose tree branches for safety purposes. We have a lot of guests here at the Rodale Institute and making it safe for visitors is always a priority.

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Say hello to our new baby goats, Buckwheat and Barley! They were born this past Sunday, November 2nd. Happy Belated Birthday boys!

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This is some serious cuteness overload!

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Not to worry, Mama Rosy is close by keeping watch.

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It looks like the rest of the gang wants to see what I'm up to! Don't worry guys, I'll be out of here soon.

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Buckwheat is already a professional photo bomber! Even with his tongue sticking out at me he's absolutely adorable.

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Wow! Look at that beautiful color pattern! Barley is definitely ready for a nap after his tiring photo shoot. Sweet dreams Barley!

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Mr. Tuggs, our resident donkey, does not seem impressed by the new baby goats. He still thinks he's the cutest man on the farm.

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Elsewhere on the farm, Dr. Hue Karreman, Staff Veterinarian, teaches a class on Dairy Cows.

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This informative course helps farmers become close observers of their animals and develop disease prevention and health-promoting strategies. Nobody wants sour milk!

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Here are some freshly dug up Gladiola bulbs that will be dried out and planted again in the spring!

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As you can see in the picture above, a few days later they look very different dried out! Drying the bulbs correctly before you store them means they do not rot and are less prone to disease over the storage period. Did you dry out any of your bulbs yet?

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

The Sweet Side of Organic Farming

In appreciation of their support, we invite Rodale Institute Business Members to share an article about their work on our website. These articles often include insightful information based on their experience and line of work.  It provides a unique perspective of organic agriculture that we enjoy sharing with our readers. 

By Nigel Willerton, CEO, Wholesome Sweeteners

Indonesian coconut tree

Indonesian coconut tree

At Wholesome Sweeteners, we believe that a healthy planet allows for healthy and happy people. So from the very beginning, organic, sustainable farming has been at the heart of our philosophy. We proudly partner with farmers who help us create this ideal by producing our sugars in a safe and ethical way without sacrificing superior quality or harming the land. Our customers can be confident in the great taste and great care we’ve taken to bring them the best sweeteners.

Our Organic Sugar comes from sugar cane grown in Paraguay and milled at Azucarera Paraguaya. These farmers provide an excellent model for organic, sustainable farming; every step of their process fosters a high quality product with very low environmental impact. The sugar cane is “green cut” or hand-harvested, and the tops of the sugar cane are left in the field to enrich the soil and control weeds. The cane is never burned or sprayed, a damaging practice to the cane and the field and lethal to the local wildlife trapped in the fields. After harvesting, the cane is transported to the mill where it’s crushed to extract the sweet juices. The crushed stalks, called bagasse, are used to fuel the mill’s boilers, providing enough electricity for the mills and neighboring villages so that fossil fuel is unnecessary. In fact, the mill creates so much energy from the bagasse that they are able to sell some of the electricity back to the state.

Indonesian farmers with Coconut Palm Sugar

Indonesian farmers with Coconut Palm Sugar

In Java, Indonesia, Wholesome Sweeteners partners with family farmers that create Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. Palm trees have been rich, food sources in Indonesia for more than 4,000 years. Farmers tap the sweet nectar from the coconut palm tree flower and turn it into Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. The trees grow wild on their property, so there is no need to use harmful, chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Every day the farmers climb the palm trees to tap the coconut palm flower at the top. Once they collect enough nectar, they heat it in large kettles where it’s stirred by hand until it cools and crystallizes, leaving behind a rich brown sugar. The farmers enjoy a reliable living from these trees: the nectar is produced year round for up to 25-40 years; the coconut fruit is used for its meat and water; and the fibrous husks are used for twine or weaving material. Most importantly, the extraction process leaves the local environment intact since the trees are never cut down destroying the farmers’ forested properties.

Wholesome Sweeteners’ organic farming practices stretch across our liquid sweeteners as well. Our Organic Blue Agave is grown in Jalisco, Mexico. The

Agave plants in Mexico

Agave plants in Mexico

leaves of the large plants are hand-cut by the farmers with a large blade, a “coa,” and left behind to protect the soil. The remaining core of the plant or the “piña” houses the blue agave nectar. The piña is crushed to extract the juices, which are then gently heated and filtered yielding a sweet amber agave syrup.

Our Organic Honey comes from hives located deep within the secluded jungles of Brazil and Mexico, where beekeeping protects native plants and encourages biodiversity. The beekeepers maintain an organic environment for the honeybees by never using antibiotics or other toxins on the hives. The hives have been placed among a variety of organic flora for miles and miles, knowing that bees will only travel up to 4 miles from their hives for food. Since the bees are feasting on a variety of wildflowers that change with the season, the honey’s flavor characteristics constantly evolve, deepening in color and flavor. The honey is minimally filtered allowing it to retain its inherent pollens and enzymes. In Brazil the beekeepers recycle the wax honeycombs once a bee colony has left for a new home.

Our efforts to produce safe and flavorful sweeteners would be nearly impossible without the time and dedication that the farmers give to their crops. That is why Wholesome Sweeteners is a proud supporter and advocate for Fairtrade programs. We believe in paying farmers a fair price for their crops and are encouraged to see how the added premiums are improving their lives. Nearly all of our organic granulated sugars are Fairtrade Certified as well as our Organic Blue Agave and Organic Honey. Wholesome Sweeteners has paid more than $9 million in Fairtrade premiums to villages in Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil and Malawi. This money has helped cultivate vital needs for those communities like electricity, healthcare, schools, clean water supplies and new farming equipment.

As more and more consumers demand safe and healthy food options, Wholesome Sweeteners continues to champion organic, sustainable farming whenever possible. This method of farming serves as a great reminder of the bountiful capabilities inherent in Mother Nature and how the right kind of human intervention can be the best formula for yielding a safe and delicious harvest.

Nigel Willerton, CEO, Wholesome Sweeteners
Since establishing Wholesome Sweeteners in 2001, Nigel has helped grow the Texas-based sweetener company into the U.S.’s largest Fairtrade Certified, USDA Organic and Non-GMO Verified supplier of sugars, syrups, stevia and honey. Because of its strong focus on social responsibility, Wholesome Sweeteners has paid more than $9 million in Fairtrade premiums to impoverished farming communities around the world. For more information on Wholesome Sweeteners’ commitment to organic, sustainable farming or to learn about its Fairtrade practices, visit WholesomeSweeteners.com.

Farm Photo Friday: October 31, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Kathline Chery, one of our interns with the Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) program, loading up some fresh organic produce which will be distributed to ASC member.

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Marisa Wagner, Research Technician, working on getting soil samples ready for analysis. First step is to remove pieces too big for the machine to handle. Why are we doing this? Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People.

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She prepares the sample using a sieve. You can see some larger pieces that won't make the cut.

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It's time to shake it, shake it, shake it!

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Who knew soil sieving could be so much fun?!

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Oh boy, that soil sample is looking fine. No big pieces left, good job Marisa!

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Say hello to our new fancy incubator! We use this to control temperature to recreate different kinds of weather. This way we can do research to find out what methods work best to grow crops in extreme conditions like droughts or floods.

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The incubator is pretty full... full of science, that is!

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Rick Carr, Compost Production Specialist, looks pumped up to turn some compost piles!

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See the steam? It's alive! No, but really, all that steam is energy given off by the microorganisms in the form of heat. Imagine a hundred people in a gymnasium working out at the same time, it would get really hot! Same concept here in the compost pile. Those microscopic critters must be hard at work.

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Here, Rick records the temperature of the next windrow before turning it. Compost is a major area of research at Rodale Institute.

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Congratulations to Bill Lenhard from Facitilties on the birth of his newborn son! Thumbs up to you Bill, you're a proud Papa!

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This week we welcome Matt Boyer back to the Facilities Department. It's great to have you back!

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Nina Griffis, Strategic Solutions Team Member, begins separating some lemon grass in one of our geodesic domes.

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Looks like she has her work cut out for her! "Bring it on," says Nina.

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Separating these clusters produces more plants. If there's one thing we love, it's more plants!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

 

Recipes: Carrots

Ginger Glazed Carrots
From marthastewart.com

½ pound carrots, peeled but with 1-inch green top left on
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
One 3-inch-by-1/2-inch-piece ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced red chili pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add carrots; cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain carrots; pat dry with paper towels.

Melt butter in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, honey, and ginger, and cook, turning carrots frequently, until carrots and ginger are browned, about 8 minutes. Add the chili pepper, and continue to cook until chile is softened, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat, and serve.

***

Roasted Carrots
From Ina Garten and The Food Network

12 carrots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole. Slice the carrots diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so make the slices big.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender.

Toss the carrots with minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.

***

Ginger Carrot Soup
From The Food Network

2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced.

Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Don't fill the blender more than half way, do it in batches if you have to. Cover the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender*. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. Return to the pan and add cream, stir over high heat until hot. For a smoother flavor bring soup to a boil, add salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with dollop sour cream and parsley sprigs.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.
Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Food as Medicine

A Partnership between Rodale Institute and St. Luke's University Health Network

Coach, Farmer Lynn Trizna and St. Luke's Anderson Campus President Ed Nawrocki

Coach, Farmer Lynn Trizna and St. Luke's Anderson Campus President Ed Nawrocki

In 431 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

Over 2500 years later, we are inundated with advertisements boasting the latest, greatest cure-all super drug. From a young age, we learn that it doesn’t matter how or what we eat, there is a quick fix around the corner for whatever ails us – whether we’re obese, have high blood pressure, or bad cholesterol – just to name a few of the issues plaguing our society.

It now seems almost revolutionary to think that we can change our health by changing the food we eat.

But, one hospital in Pennsylvania thought just that.

In 2014, Rodale Institute, in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network, launched a true farm to hospital food program.

The Anderson Campus at St. Luke’s has over 300 acres of farmland, much of which had historically been farmed conventionally with crops like corn and soy. The hospital administration recognized the impact that providing fresh, local organic produce could have on patient health and approached Rodale Institute to transition the land to organic and farm vegetables to be used in patient meals as well as in the cafeteria.

Lynn Trizna, or Farmer Lynn, as she’s known around St. Luke’s, provides food to all six hospitals within the Network. This year, she is growing five acres of vegetables with plans to expand to ten acres in coming years. She estimates about 44,000 lbs of produce from her farm will be served in the hospital, just this season. She is paid a salary through Rodale Institute and has employed three staff members, all aspiring farmers.

With a three-year plan in place, Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s see the potential for expansion. We envision growing the program to include fifteen to twenty farmers – supporting new farmers who don’t have access to land; greenhouses that allow for year round production of produce; and a small batch cannery, ensuring that we can enjoy the harvest, even in the coldest months of winter.

We have created this model with the belief that it can, and should, be replicated at every hospital throughout the United States.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, stop – think of us and Hippocrates’ words of wisdom. Maybe you’ll then look to the garden for a cure, instead of the medicine cabinet.

Click here to learn more about this project.

Ask the Farmer: Hay field recovery and cattle

Rodale Institute Farm Director Jeff Moyer talks about what is happening in our fields and yours.

Donna asks:

I searched the internet to find out about cattle and hay fields and your site popped up. We have inherited 27 acres and six head of cattle (two Long-horns and four Herefords). There are three hay fields on the land. I am unsure of the size of the fields, but I know 430 bales of hay were cut this summer. (more…)

Farm Photo Friday: October 24, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!  Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Michael Horvath is a regular volunteer here at Rodale Institute. Here he starts cleaning turnips for restaurant deliveries. We appreciate all that you do, Mike!

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Marie Shelli, ASC intern, is also cleaning some veggies grown especially for restaurants.

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While fellow ASC intern Kristen Yates does the final packing before they get loaded up for deliveries.

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The goats are making a guest appearance at the Rodale Institute Garden Store and are doing a wonderful job getting rid of some pesky poison ivy! We don't want any of our spooky guests getting itchy at the Trick or Treat on the Farm!

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Store Manager, Heather Gurk, is getting some candy together for Trick or Treat at the Farm!

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Nina Griffis, Strategic Solutions Team member, picks some of the season's last peppers.

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It sure was a great year for peppers, look at these beauties!

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This rooster is getting a little defensive. Perhaps he suspects this photographer wants to steal one of his girlfriends?

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 While the weather might be getting colder, the Rodale Institute's front yard garden is still flourishing. We just picked some lettuce and have more in store.

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Employees gather up for a delicious lunch made by our very own Education and Outreach Director, Maria Pop.

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Out in the hoop house we've got some more lettuce varieties growing.

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And not too far away are some bean plants!

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Here is a cabbage patch that looks amazing!

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  Don't you just want to try some?

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That's a lot of garlic! Just in time to keep all the vampires away this Halloween!

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Ross Duffield, Farm Manager, getting the dump truck ready to deliver a shipment of organic oats.

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Wow! That's an oat-rageous amount of organic oats!

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Ross and Jeff Moyer, Farm Director, set up the auger-elevator which moves the oats up the chute and into the bed of the truck.

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And with one last push.......

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and one last pull.....

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the oats begin to flow!

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Elsewhere on the farm, Chief Scientist, Dr. Kris Nichols, teaches a course on soil biology. Here, lonely Mr. Microscope eagerly awaits to make eye contact.

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Tammy and her 13 new piglets share a special moment as they bond.

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 Ross checks in on mama and her piglets. They look to be doing just great! Check in with us next Farm Photo Friday for more snaps of the piglets as they start to explore!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

My Experience: A first year farmer works with pasture raised hogs

A guest blog post by Caroline Hampton, a first year farmer based in North Carolina

By the middle of October, it’s really starting to feel like Fall. I am excited for cooler weather and the end of the season, and my body is too. No matter how many hours of sleep I get each night or what time I go to bed, I find my body unwilling to rise in the morning. Fall crops are in the ground and growing well, and our hogs are growing larger and fattening up, preparing to be slaughtered in November.

My previous experience in farming has been focused on vegetable production, though I have done some dairy work with cows, and have used grazing beef cattle in a field rotation. I have lived with backyard chickens several times, but nothing really prepared me for mPasture Raised Hogsy experience of raising pigs this season. At the F.I.G. Farm, we decided to raise pigs together. Initially, we wanted to raise one pig to be the main course for a fall farm dinner, and when the opportunity to buy feeder pigs came up, the three other farmers at the F.I.G. Farm decided that they would like to each have their own pig to raise for sale and personal use. Because it was my first season as a farmer, I felt that the commitment of raising a pig would be too much work for me to take on. I declined to get my own pig. However, within a month of the pigs coming to the farm, I found myself serving as the primary caretaker for a herd of four pigs.

The experience of raising four pigs as a new farmer, unexperienced with livestock, has been entertaining, emotionally trying, and incredibly enriching. Fortunately the incubator farm where I am renting space has an ideal set up for raising pigs, including all of the equipment needed, like the push posts and polywire needed for the construction of our electric fence, a generator for our electric fence, troughs for eating and a waterer, and even a training pen for the piglets to initially go into.

When we first got our young 20 pound pigs, or shoats, they were very frightened of humans and always ran away when approached. I in turn was similarly shy and hesitant around them, unsure of how to approach, wishing not to frighten them with my eagerness. Over time they came to understand that a person carrying a bucket into their pen meant food had arrived and would clamber around and into their trough to scarf down the choicest bits first. Being able to physically interact with and handle the pigs with confidence and ease is important for bringing food into the pen or entering the pen to move equipment, move the pigs from pen to pen, and ultimately will be important for having the pigs cooperate when we load them onto a truck to take to the slaughterhouse.

Being able to handle the pigs meant spending time in the pen with them when they were eating when they first came, because their desperate zeal for food was all that could coax them into my vicinity. Now our pigs are nearing 200 pounds and recognize the sound of my truck. When I am walking out to the field to feed them, they will begin a raucous chorus of grunts and from one pig, high pitched squeals. They will often sound off even when I am not coming to feed them to express their displeasure. I worried for a long time that we weren’t feeding the pigs enough because of the way they continually begged for food, but like children, they know the sounds and behaviors that motivate their caretakers to hand over some chow.

Over the season I have had mentorship from our local livestock agent from Agricultural Extension in Watauga County, as well as from other farmers in the community. I have consulted with other farmers in person and on the phone, attended workshops, and had others come out to our property for advice about our space. I have learned a lot about what to feed pigs, how much to feed pigs, and how to effectively rotate them through pastures.

Our pigs are being raised in a large pasture that we have divided into six separate segments and we let them root and graze an area quite heavily before moving them into the next segment. The smartest thing to do after moving the pigs is to sow seeds of various forage crops in the previously used segment so that as the pigs continue to rotate, they will have a feast waiting for them. This season we did not manage to follow our rotation by sowing forage crops, but I will include this in my management plan next year. I plan to raise four pigs with a friend on his property next year, and these pigs will be raised for sale at the farmer’s market.

We feed our pigs twice a day, a diet of food scraps from the kitchens of local restaurants and grocery stores, as well as spent grain from a local brewery. Often we cannot get the spent grain and to ensure that our pigs are getting enough protein, we feed them a pelleted pig feed produced by a North Carolina company and sold at our local feed store. Pigs need a high protein (usually around 16%) feed daily, and the amount of food provided should weigh 3 – 5% of the pig’s body weight. Making sure our pigs have had enough food has certainly been the biggest struggle over the course of the season, and forced us to become more creative about food sources than we originally anticipated.

Our pigs are smart and entertaining and I find joy interacting with them. They are curious and playful animals, and approach anything new to their pen with interest, though principally they want to know whether they can eat it or not. In November, we will be sending some of our pigs to the slaughterhouse so that the other farmers can sell the meat. We ultimately decided not to have a farm dinner this fall, so the pig that we raised to be our group pig became mine for the hard work that I have put in with our herd this year.

Because I plan to use the meat personally and not sell it, I do not have to send my pig to the slaughterhouse, and I am very seriously considering killing my pig myself. Many of my mentors have been able to offer insights into and aid with personal slaughter of a pig, and in my mind it is the most honest and reverent way to end a pig’s life that you have had a personal relationship with. The quality of the meat will also be at its best, because transport to and time spent at the slaughterhouse cause stress on the pig, and their bodily cortisol levels rise, compromising some amount the quality of the flavor. I am looking forward to sharing about my personal experience of slaughter, and anticipating some truly wonderful pasture raised pork!