Demolition Crew

2015-05-27 DemolitionI got up one day last week to find my gilts had decided to demolish their shelter.  It used to have plywood on the back and a third support in the center.  Granted, it was an old shelter, but it had withstood the test of time with eleven goats, so I figured it was stout enough to house four pigs for two weeks.  Nope.  Unlike goats, pigs like to root around stationary objects, then push and scratch on them relentlessly.  For this reason, pigs were historically used to clear forested fields.  The pigs would root around the base of the trees, digging up, chewing on, and killing the roots, then the trees would die and fall over.

2014-12-24 New Pig Shelter

This is my new and improved pig shelter design, built on skids so I can drag it around.  It also has a platform on one end where I can secure both the feeder and the water barrel (I learned the hard way that pigs think it’s funny to push the feeder over and then flip it around until it breaks).  This shelter is still standing after five months of pig abuse, so I think the design is pretty good.  I use standard pallets for the walls and add plywood across the front in the winter to keep the rain out.  Of course, the four gilts that destroyed their shelter last week, haven’t seen this shelter yet, so I may be in for a rude surprise.  As I was walking away from the pig pasture the other day, I think I heard one of them grunt, “Bring it, fool”….

 

Community Sourced Capital: Hot Winter Hot Sauce

Hot Winter

Shaun Winter makes great hot sauce right here in Portland and he needs a small loan so his business, Hot Winter, can continue to source organic peppers from local organic farmers and sell his hot sauce in more stores.  Shaun is a local farm entrepreneur, boot-strapping his business, and working hard to provide business for local organic farmers and put healthy, locally-made hot sauce on our store shelves.  He needs our support and for as little as $50, we can help him secure the loan he needs to push his business forward.

I talked with Shaun last week at ComCap Oregon, a conference in Portland where participants ComCap Oregonspent two days discussing community sourced capital.   If you’ve never heard of community sourced capital, the concept is simple, yet powerful: local people invest money in locally-owned businesses in order to help our local economies thrive.  In Shaun’s case, he isn’t just selling locally-made hot sauce, he’s buying the organic ingredients from local farmers.  That’s how strong local economies are created: money spent here, stays here.

Shaun’s doing his part to support our local economy and he needs us to crack open our wallets and loan him $50.  He put together a special loan from Craft3, but he needs to raise $5,000 on his own before they will release the funds.  He only has four more days and he still needs to raise $1,050 to reach his $5,000 goal.  I’m loaning him money and I hope you will too.  Building a strong local economy is great for all of us.

Welcome to my farm blog

Pigs!

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.Chewy

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.  HeaderI 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.

–MATT