For some reason, I made a connection with hogs.
We had cattle as well when I was a kid, but I just liked hogs better. I liked their mischievous nature. Cattle are a little bit more humdrum and laid back. Hogs were always thinking about what to destroy next — a little more curious, a little more interactive than cattle.
We have a wooded lot, and we were trying to figure out what to do with it. That’s how hogs finally came up. I feel like now we’re using the whole property, like we’re bettering the property by rotating the hogs on the land.
There are 11, but we’re going to cut back to eight next year. We have a limited three acres for them. We have three pens on those three acres, and we sort of move them every month to month and a half. But they’ve cleared out any vegetation we have, so I think we’re going to be permanently at about eight animals from here on out.
We may be more interested in heritage breeds going forward. We have four in this batch this year, Large English Blacks. We want to further diversity in anything, so we would like to support farms that do that.
Breeds that have become less popular usually mean they were ‘taking more time’ to [reach maturity].
In general, faster, quicker — those things were emphasized a lot from the mid-1900s. Now we’re reconsidering whether or not that’s all for the best.
Also, the Large English Black breed — and a lot of heritage breeds — have what would be considered a little tastier meat. You don’t usually talk about hog meat in this way. People talk about marbling a lot in cattle, but supposedly these Large English Blacks have some marbling in the pork chops, and more fat means a better taste experience.
We buy them at about 40 pounds and raise them to 300 pounds or a little over 300.
People find us by word of mouth, and we’ve never, ever had trouble selling. We’ve done a Facebook post once, and we just have a list of people we can call.
It’s fun — both to be with the animals and to feel as if we’re using the place to its full extent. Right now, acorns are falling, and it’s kind of fun to watch them trying to find them to eat.
I don’t know that there is any real connection between my art and my farming other than using earth. I never thought I’d be a farmer again. I had no interest at all, really, but I’m glad to be connected to the Earth in both my art and farming.
– Mark Goertzen, owner, Goertzen Pottery, and co-proprietor of micro hog CSA with wife Suzanne Ehst
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This summer, we're taking a look at some of the small farms and urban gardens you'll only find in Goshen! More stories to come through September.
Written and edited by Wendy Wilson
Original publish date April 2022
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