Our pigs live happy, outside lives from the moment they come to us. Our aim is to have pigs able to express their whole piggy nature: they have earth to dig, friends to play with, sunshine to bask in, and a warm place to sleep.
We get our piglets primarily from a small breeder in Cedar, who has her pigs on a large green pasture with access to a pond. Babies are born in a barn, to keep them warm and safe, and are kept with their mother until we pick them up at about 7 or 8 weeks old. The mother is free to move around as she pleases within the barn, unlike in big commercial operations. The piglets are a Berkshire Hereford cross, which we find make lovely pork – not too fat, not too lean. When these piglets are not available, we have a list of small breeders that we check with to make sure that we have our piglet needs taken care of: all these breeders have strong, healthy pigs that live outside.
When we bring our piglets home, we find that the best housing for them is the canopy of a pickup truck stuffed with a couple of bales of hay. The piglets love nesting in the hay when they’re sleepy, and when they want to play they run in through the side window of the canopy, and out the front, around and around. So cute! We give them primarily kibble when they’re younger, and as they get bigger we transition them to grocery store seconds: bruised fruit, with bread soaked in milk or yoghurt are favourites! We feed them apples from our trees in the fall, and they eat some of our hay in the winter and spring.
Our piglets grow to market size in about 3-4 months. As they get too big for their baby house, we move their sleeping spot into our barn, where they have nice clean hay to nestle into. We transition them to new pasture once or twice while they’re with us, and they are always so happy to have something new to explore. We flatten and mulch over areas that the pigs have left as soon as we can manage, so that soil is left bare for the least amount of time possible (given the limits of a 24 hour day filled with competing priorities!). We are currently working on planting chestnut and pecan trees around some areas that will be in permanent rotation as pig pastures. These trees will provide shade, nuts for people and pigs, and help to hydrate the air during hot summers by bringing water up through their roots and out their leaves. Plus, carbon sequestration! Trees are magic.
When it’s time for the pigs to leave us, we work to keep things as easy as possible. We transport them in a trailer that they have gotten used to sleeping in, so everything is familiar. We close them in the night before, so there is no concern about stressing a pig trying to figure out how to load him when he doesn’t want to go. In the morning, when the pigs would usually still be sleeping, we drive them for less than half an hour to a small, friendly abattoir in Metchosin, where they are met with a calm barn, and the sounds of some other pigs quietly socializing. Pigs are curious, and usually leave the trailer quickly to see what is going on. The staff assure me that everything is quick, calm, and professional, and that the pigs have just one surprising moment at the end.
Running a small farm is a labour of love, and we started pasturing pigs because we learned too much about grocery store pork to feel comfortable feeding it to our families. I am very happy with the evolution of our pig systems, and feel that the world is a better place due to the work we’re doing.
I hope that you can taste the sky, earth, and sun of Sooke when you try our pork, because it’s all in there.