My name is Matt Alford and I am a small-time pig farmer located in the unincorporated community of Laurelwood, Oregon, about five miles from Gaston and 50 minutes from Portland. I raise Gloucestershire Old Spot heritage hogs and sell them farm-direct to local eaters, who appreciate the high quality of the meat and the extensive effort that I put into making sure the hogs live the very best life possible.
People who know me, know that I have a very high bar for the meat that I put on my own table. About fifteen years ago, I quit eating meat entirely after learning what “factory farming” meant. I wanted nothing to do with that and I spent the next two years thinking about life, death, right, wrong, meat, murder, capital punishment, religion, hunting and all sorts of other tangents related to meat. I finally came to the conclusion that eating meat isn’t wrong and whatever meat I consume, I’m going to know that meat from field to table. I also decided to confront the fact that meat comes from a living, breathing being that thinks for itself and feels pain. Meat nourishes life by taking life and at the very least, I owed the animal the respect of looking it in the eye and taking its life myself if I thought eating meat was so important that the animal needed to die in order to feed me.
As a result, I learned how to hunt, first with bow and arrow, then later with rifle and shotgun. I learned what it meant to hunt animals in the wild, on their own terms and what it meant to eat a lot of salad after coming home empty-handed. I spent days and weeks sitting quietly in the woods, watching animals interact with each other, care for their young, and live in freedom. I learned humility and respect for every piece of meat I brought home for the table.
Eventually, I started raising packgoats to help me carry my camp into the backcountry and the meat back out to the truck. I was a slow learner, but my goats were kind enough to teach me lessons over and over about what it meant to put up a fence and keep it up. They also made sure I understood that they viewed anything I built as a temporary structure and they were put on this earth to see to it that temporary structures were torn down.
After about seven years of “goat learning” I decided to raise a couple weaner pigs for my own consumption. I already had good fences, water, and pasture. While I expected the final pork would taste great (and it did), what I didn’t expect was to like being around pigs as much as I did. Pigs are funny. They chase each other around, root in the dirt, and like to come over and investigate whatever I’m doing. Now, my farm doesn’t feel complete without them.
I like pigs and I’m happy raising them in a manner that supports their “pigness” and happiness. It seems that other people like it too because wherever I go and talk to people about how and why I raise pigs, there is someone who asks if they can buy pork from me. That makes me happy, because every pig that I sell reduces the demand on factory pig farms. Maybe someday, enough people will buy local, pasture-raised pigs that there won’t be any demand for factory farms and they will just become a shameful foot note in our history. Industrial pig farming hasn’t been kind to pigs and they deserve better. I’m doing my part, a few pigs at a time.