Marie is establishing an ecologically sustainable pasture hog system with the aim of demonstrating a financially viable model to other hog producers. She is constructing a hoophouse for hogs to farrow and house in winter months, portable field sheds, a water system and additional feed storage.
Marie plans to have a five-sow and one-boar enterprise. Each sow should wean a minimum of eight healthy piglets twice a year. Pregnant sows rotate through a grass pasture with several paddocks. The portable system allows frequent moves to prevent soil degradation. Bare areas, which are inevitable with hog rooting, are replanted in cover crop after hogs leave each paddock.
Healthy piglets raised in a sustainable manner are hard to come by. The piglets produced on-farm allows Marie to expand her own pastured hog operation, as well as eventually sell high quality piglets to other producers. The hogs’ deep bedding also supplies compost for Bluebird Farm’s vegetable enterprise, which currently serves 40 Community Supported Agriculture members and three local farmers’ markets.
“Producing our own piglets will be a major step toward scaling our farm up to a truly financially viable size that will fairly compensate our labor, the labor of our help, pay for long term improvements and the land we are using,” Marie said.
Marie is now able to avoid working off-farm part-time over winter months. She and her partner Wiliam Lyons manage 25 acres of mixed cropland, pastures and forested pig pastures on land where Marie grew up farming with her family. All of the meat animals are fed certified organic grains.
“We are dedicated to building living soils to ensure the quality of vegetables and animals,” she said.