Friday, October 21, 2011

Sustainability :: The Whole Hog

Sustainability is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. Every sort of agriculture from large-scale row crop operations to confinement agriculture to the smallest market garden farms use the word sustainable. So, if feel that it is always necessary for me to define the word when I'm using it. In my case i would simply sum sustainability up as the sort of farming that lets me survive physically and emotionally ... adds to the health and well-being of friends and neighbors ... takes into account the created purpose of the livestock ... takes stewardship of the land seriously ... and has fun doing it. Of course now that I've written that out I realize it's not quite as simple as it seems on the surface ... nevertheless I'm always striving for sustainability along those lines!

With that in mind I think I've come to the conclusion that selling halves and wholes is the most sustainable option for the farm. I'm not completely sure that I will ever make it to the point where I'm only selling wholes and halves, but I do believe it is a very sustainable goal to work towards on every level. Let me take some of the above definition of sustainability and explain what I mean ...

  • Simply said ... going to the market every week (while working a full-time town job) takes up precious time and energy. I love the interaction with customers and the opportunity to share the reasons for the farm and the way the farm works. The sale of wholes and halves still takes time marketing and communicating with customers, but in the end it is much less time consuming and stressful.
  • I think most would readily agree with me that wholes and halves is most sustainable for the farm, but I believe it is equally sustainable for the customer (friends and neighbors). When a family purchases a whole or half hog (since that is all we're selling now) they get all the cuts. I agree that it is easier to just get the things you want (chops, bacon, etc.), but when you get a whole hog you get all the good out of the animal. This type of purchase encourages the customer to make use of everything ... including some of the most healthy things that many people would skip. Lard is the perfect example ... and it is not as difficult to make and use as you think!
  • Crooked Gap Farm is a place where a pig is a pig. That means that the pigs are allowed to fill their created pigginess, but also that the whole pig is used just as it was created to be. I strive to make sure that all that can be used or sold is used or sold and when dealing with wholes and halves it is just that much easier.
  • On the surface it seems that the way you sell an animal wouldn't have much to do with land stewardship. But, I think it does! Just think of it this way ... when you are selling the majority of your livestock as wholes and halves you are able to really align the animals with the seasons that work best for them and the land. This allows the farm to maintain a high level of ecological sustainability and to tap into the natural instincts of the animals. I love it!
  • Finally ... I just want to have fun farming because that is one of my key components of sustainability! When I was a kid I played with my toy tractors for fun ... I ran through manure piles for fun ... I pretended to farm for fun! Now that I'm an adult I want to keep the fun around ... too many farms forget the fun and I refuse to be one of them.
:: Farm Rock :: Deer in the Headlights by Owl City ... watch here ... buy here ::


Donna OShaughnessy said...

We too are leaning towards the same thing. We have sold to restaurants the last three years but so much time off the farm. The grocery stores pay well but again takes time. Selling out of our own on farm store...THE BEST DEAL YET. What we lose in privacy we have gained in community and profit. Selling by halves and wholes is second best. Pasrt of farming is knowing when to stay with a certain program and when to quit.

Anonymous said...

Are you getting stuck with a lot of harder to sell cuts?

This post is really interesting to me because we're doing the opposite on our farm: right now we only sell our beef as quarters and halves and are working towards selling by the cut. However, I was planning to just get steaks and burger made and skip the roasts. When we do it I'd like to set up a self serve cooler here on the farm.

I thought selling by the cut would increase our sales because a lot of people don't want to mess with buying and storing a whole 1/4. We've had a lot of calls and requests for just burger.

If you have any more thoughts on this topic please share.

Stevie said...

Glad to hear you're doing OK with halves and wholes. Our goal this spring is to put 4 feeder pigs on the pond to seal it. But we'll need to convince friends and neighbors to invest in halves or whole pigs in the fall since marketing pigs isn't really on my to do list. I also like the idea of no waste from the process (and a sealed pond!)

Jasmine Reese said...

Sustainability is so important now with 7 billion people now on the Earth. It's nice to see farmers like yourself thinking about it. Feeding America is going to become more difficult for all farmers even small, beginning ones, but I know we can do it with sustainability in mind.

Funny Firm said...

I love the line "too many farms forget the fun and I refuse to be one of them." That is important. If you have fun with something it is going to mean more to you. Great post!!

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