Type: Woodland Pig Farm,Rare Breed
Years in operation: 4
Annual revenue: 10k-50k
(Average over last three years)
Mulefoot Hogs are critically rare so we are doing our best to rejuvenate interest in the breed. We started with our first three breeders in 2012 and have been able to double our sales and herd size each year due to the high demand for this Heritage breed. The pigs roam freely on 20-25 of our 74 acres where they get to root, run and play as pigs should. Humane treatment of all animals and responsible land stewardship are important factors to my family. I’m the main farmer and my husband and two children pitch in as needed. We occasionally have an apprentice to help out or hire help for specific projects. We currently have 165 pigs ranging from 4 pounds up to 700lbs. We also pasture raise a small number of chickens and turkeys each year.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Patience is the key to our farm. Mulefoot Hogs grow slower; they take 12-14 months to reach market size compared to 4-6 months of commercial breeds. Mulefoot have small litters; they average 3-6 piglets compared to a dozen or more. Mulefoot are great foragers but they do not do well in confined spaces. These are the 3 main reasons that they are now a critically rare breed. American hog farmers chose to develop and switch to faster growing pigs that would yield large litters in order to turn quick profits while growing them indoors with less effort. We on the other hand, see the importance of breed diversity and the old time breeds that possess value for their natural hardiness and instinctive nature. I’m helping this breed come back to sustainable numbers by creating a market for it. This old Heritage breed is not “the other white meat”, the meat is well marbled with deep flavorings and it fills the demand of a growing market for fresh and curable meats desired by chefs and consumers alike. As the Vice Chair of the American Mulefoot Breeders Association I know that it sounds odd, but you have to eat a rare breed to save it. As rare breeds gain popularity with consumers, so does the interest of farmers to raise them and eventually the breed will become sustainable once again. We work with some of the top chefs in the region which helps to promote this breed and I attend the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Common Ground Fair annually to exhibit our Mulefoot and inform the public about the breed and how to raise their own.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
I was the first to bring Mulefoot Hogs to Maine and though I have sold breeding stock to several farms throughout New England, I’m not concerned about competition due to the rapid growth rate of this market. There is enough demand to continue the expansion of my farm and to add new Mulefoot farmers as well. With the removal of the “Country Of Origin” labels, consumers are concerned about where their food comes from and the media has helped educate the masses with a variety of movies and undercover videos that ultimately drive many consumers to search out food produced through alternative methods such as my humanely raised woodland pork. The “foodie” movement is still growing steadily so I anticipate continued growth for my farm and others. Mulefoot pork has won blind taste tests both locally and on the national level and I’m proud to offer a wonderful product that is truly set above the others. This year we’ve added cold storage delivery capabilities which have given us the ability to greatly broaden our marketing while still remaining within a 200 mile “local food” area.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
If awarded the Mortgage Lifter, I would use the funds to improve our pasture feeding and watering systems and to hire additional farm help. As the farm has been in constant growth since its inception, we are constantly improving the infrastructure as needed. A pasture area well and storage watering system would increase efficiency, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, extend the life of our tractor and save fuel. A feed wagon would also have similar benefits as well as a money saving bonus as bulk feed is less expensive.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
I began farming in 2012 to provide my family with healthy, happy food when we became fed up with commercial practices and the misleading label systems. I had never entertained the idea of becoming a hog farmer, I never envisioned growing the farm to the current size and I certainly never dreamed I’d be supplying pork to some of the top chefs in the North East, but I did and I do and I absolutely love it and I love my pigs. Each one gets a name, belly scratches, back rubs and plenty of time and space to be just pigs. I cannot envision doing anything else, I have found my place. The farm motto is “We Play With Your Food and Name It Too!”
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