Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
January 2010 found Dan Earnest and Carrie Megginson moving in to their picturesque farmhouse in the beautiful South Central Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. In the spring, they acquired their first Tamworth cross piglets and began dedicating their time to raising the happiest, pastured, heritage-breed pigs in the region. Their passion for great pork, ethically produced, has been an unbelievable learning experience -- as well as a source of pride and joy. And no, neither Carrie nor Dan had farmed before they chose to jump in at the deep end of sustainable agriculture.
Read more to learn about how Carrie cares for her pigs and tries to grow her small business.
Monday, April 23
4:38am: One of the cats wakes me. I let her in and settle into a doze on the sofa by the front door. In a few more minutes, another of the cats is asking to be let in. The deep front porch shelters me from the worst of the weather, but the wind is blowing and there's a wet, snowy sleet falling.
6:15am: All four cats receive a tiny serving of the raw milk we buy from our neighbors up the road at Hidden Hills Dairy. Hidden Hills uses most of the milk from their Jersey cow herd to make artisanal raw milk cheeses. As a courtesy, they also provide milk to customers who sign waivers acknowledging their awareness of the dangers of drinking unpasteurized milk. Our farm has an arrangement to collect waste whey from Hidden Hills for our herd of pastured pigs. The whey adds protein and valuable amino acids to our Tamworth cross swine feeding plan. In addition, whey promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal flora in all omnivores -- pigs as well as people.
6:20am: I dash through the light morning snow--it was 70° and sunny only three days ago -- to put out feed for the chickens and open up the two chicken coops just east of the farmhouse. Chickens hate being "cooped up," and they come pouring out of the coops in twos and threes when I open their doors. They spend their days here wandering at will looking for bugs and tasty plants.
7:45am: As I finish tidying the kitchen, I find a couple containers of quinoa salad in the fridge. They showed up at the potluck Pig Roast we hosted on Saturday. By now everyone in the house who wanted leftovers has had their fill. The quinoa salads will make a nice addition to our sows', Ruby and Garnet, breakfast. I set the salads aside.
8:30am: Coffee and top milk from my non-homogenized milk bottle, and I'm standing in the kitchen buffing away dirt and other encrustations on a couple baskets of eggs from our hens. Under 2 oz and the egg is a "medium." Two oz to 2.25 oz and the egg is large, 2.3 oz or more and the egg is extra-large.
9:15am: I call up the stairs to let Dan know our farmhand, Sebastiaan Zijp, is waiting outside to run breakfast to the pigs in the pastures. While the men look after the big pigs, I have another cup of coffee and phone my mother to say hey.
10:30am: I've had phone calls from two of the folks with whom we're working closely to form a producers' co-op for marketing our best agricultural goods down in the premium markets of DC and Baltimore. Though we're located in Pennsylvania, we're 140 miles through the mountains to Pittsburgh, and more than 200 miles to Philadelphia. DC is fewer than 125 miles from our farm, and Baltimore is only five miles more.
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