Sugar Mountain In the News


Jill of Blackie with Newborn Piglets

The other day Sugar Mountain Farm was mentioned briefly in an article on the front page of the New York Times about localvores. We don’t get the paper so we only found out about it when Holly’s father called to say he had seen us on the front page of the NY Times.

“The highest form of luxury is now growing it yourself or paying other people to grow it for you,” said Corby Kummer, the food columnist and book author. “This has become fashion.”

Locally grown food, even fully cooked meals, can be delivered to your door. A share in a cow raised in a nearby field can be brought to you, ready for the freezer — a phenomenon dubbed cow pooling. There is pork pooling as well. At Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont, the demand for a half or whole rare-breed pig is so great that people will not be seeing pork until the late fall.

Although a completely local diet is out of reach for even the most dedicated, the shift toward it is being driven by the increasingly popular view that fast food is the enemy and that local food tastes better. Depending on the season, local produce can cost an additional $1 a pound or more. But long-distance food, with its attendant petroleum consumption and cheap wages, is harming the planet and does nothing to help build communities, locavores believe.
NY Times

That lead to a Massachusetts based NECNTV news crew coming out to our farm this morning. If you have high speed internet you can go to their web site to see the short video segment. Here’s the short bit of text from the video page:

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(NECN: Anya Huneke, West Topsham, Vermont) – It is another lazy day at Sugar Mountain Farm in West Topsham, Vermont — for the animals, that is. Walter and Holly Jeffries are hard at work, trying to keep up with demand for their product.

The Jeffries used to be sheep farmers, but after a lot of time and effort, and limited reward, they ventured into pig farming.

Sugar Mountain Farm currently sells piglets and pastured pork to local residents, stores and restaurants. One of the benefits of pigs is their rapid growth rate. When they are born, they only weigh three pounds, but they gain one to one-and-a-half pounds a day. [Slight correction, “up to 2.4 lbs/day” -WJ]

And, as far as the animals go, Walter says pigs are pretty low maintenance. This has enticed more Vermonters into the business of pig farming. The “eat local” movement has played a part as well.

Despite the rising demand for their all-natural, free-range pigs, the Jeffries are intent on remaining a local business.
NECN TV News

(There were a few very minor errors that the reporters injected like the rate of growth and that we don’t sell rare-breed pigs. I’m not interested in pure-bred pigs. I want to produce a better pig that is sustainable here in Vermont. Ours are a mix of heritage breeds (Yorkshire x Berkshire x Tamworth x Glouster Old Spot x other crosses) based on their phenotype. We breed for pasture-ability, temperament, meat quality, length and a number of other characteristics with the goal of producing pigs that work well in our climate. With each generation we select the best of the best to continue our herd.)

The NY Times article generated a lot of heated debate in their comments about whether it is valid to have someone else come to plant and weed your garden. Interesting question. Ideally people would get the exercise and enjoyment from gardening but not everybody likes it or has the inclinations. I came to the conclusion that it is just as valid as having someone else raise a pig for you, which we do for many people, someone else repairing your car (Thank you, Monty), someone else doing your dentistry (Thank you, Dr. V. & staff), someone else being your doctor (Thank you, Dr. J.), someone else delivering your mail (Thank you Beth, Don and Annie), etc. Like Mr. Long, I enjoy doing a wide variety of things, but there’s no rule that we all must do everything. Each to their own temperament.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!

-Lazarus Long (of Robert Heinlein)

NY Times article also implies that local food costs more. Yes, sometimes that is true, if you’re contrasting it to commodity grown, pesticide coated, herbicide laden, antibiotic filled, conventional mass-produced ‘food’ one typically sees at the supermarket. If you compare apples to apples, that is to say local organic apples to long distance organic apples then the costs are comparable and the local apples may even be less expensive while still having higher quality. Local food, at least in these parts, is generally organically produced, be it with USDA approved big ‘O’ or real-world little ‘o’. The result is local food is generally not just better quality, better for you, better for the environment, better for your area economy but also a little less pricey since it hasn’t had to travel as far. This leaves the real question of organic vs non-organic which is a completely separate debate…

Outdoors: 70°F/56°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 72°F/68°F
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Sugar Mountain In the News

  1. BFW says:

    Congrats on the press, I’d seen it myself (independently) and am glad to know your business is going well.

    I look forward to more updates on the house.

    And a small request, I really like posts that give insight into what it’s like to be a pig farmer (raising/breeding/slaughtering the animals, legal stuff, financial (things us consumers might be surprised by)). So if you could blog on those a little more often – I find them fascinating.

  2. Hi Walter –
    That’s so exciting!
    Nothing like stirring the pot over at NYT.
    I always tell people that industrial produced food seems to be a better value than local or farm share but it’s an illusion.

    In actuality the reason factory food is cheaper in terms of grocery dollars is because American Tax Payers are subsidizing large corporations and agricultural PACs.

    Most of us pay in part for cheap industrial farmed food every April 15th whether or not we eat it.

  3. heyercapital says:

    What a tremendous article for you. I hope it keeps business strong and draws more people to the advantages of supporting local heroes.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Just stopped by for a visit. I wanted to say Hi and nice Blog.

    Congrats on the article.

    Carolyn

  5. Eva says:

    Concrats!
    What a great picture of kaleidescope piglets.

  6. deb says:

    Free advertisments for your pork! How great! So, how does it feel to be famous?

    Bfw, this whole blog is about what it is like to be a pig farmer. LOL Read the older articles. Walt has some amazing stuff on this blog.

  7. Jessica says:

    We live in Missouri and our three sows just had 23 piglets. We want to elimnate the use of grain and I have them on the pasture, but our pasture is nothing to brag about…will the pigs do ok? What kind of pasture do you have? What kind of food do you feed in the winter? Thanks for your insight!

  8. Farm Aid says:

    Walter,

    Congratulations on your fantastic media coverage! Your farm is a perfect example of the kind of sustainable, locally-focused, family farm that Farm Aid celebrates!

  9. katrina says:

    Walter – I find the vegetables I buy locally at the farmer’s market not only taste better, but last weeks longer from what I buy at Shaw’s, Market Basket, or Hannaford. Pennies, really, more than what what I pay for that long-trucked, not always organic stuff. And taste? Huge difference. Congratulations on the article, and those beautiful piglets.

  10. LJB says:

    Personally, I’m relieved to hear you are committed to keeping your product local. LOL Great that the NYT readership is hearing that we can do it locally and successfully. As far as higher cost to these good foods, I gave up price comparing years ago when I figured I wasn’t going to change my buying habits in order to save a few dollars. Plus I figure in the long run, I’m saving on medical expenses and certainly on mental health expenses by growing our own and/or buying locally grown edibles. That reminds me, I really do need to get out and harvest some milkweed pods and give them a try before they outgrow their usefulness as food. Have you eaten them?

  11. Hayden says:

    I’ve been lurking for about 6 months and wanted to de-lurk to congratulate you on the press! Other than a few veggies I don’t grow anything myself (yet) – but the local farmers market has kept me in inexpensive, local, mostly organic and outrageously tasty food for 25 years now. Buying local food matters if you care about quality, and I’ve not found it to be overall more expensive. Some things, yes. But not overall.

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