Family

Our farm has been a family endeavor for decades and is a place where people can roost, fly off to other things and return in time. A place of family, a place of pack, a place of pigs, a place of pastures and forests in a secluded valley hidden away in the mountains east of Montpelier, Vermont.

Walter loves working with animals, plants and machines. He has a knack for engineering, math, construction, working with animals, gardening and breaking big problems down to small enough chucks that they can be solved. He is a creator, a maker, an impover, a fixer. He also enjoys photography and writing the articles on our blog. Walter loves contra dancing, as does everyone in our family, and was a professional rock climber for fifteen years as well as a beekeeper for 25 years in addition to inventing, owning and running a manufacturing company and a book and magazine publishing company for over 20 years. In addition to running the farm and managing our livestock breeding program and dog training Walter does meat cutting of our pork and handles the sales of our meat and pigs. Walter, Will and Holly trained for 18 months with master butcher Cole Ward here in Vermont. Walter is also trained in the USDA HACCP food safety system.

Ben has a knack with animals, enjoys theater, philosophy & psychology, cartooning, rip-sticking which is like skate-boarding, and he takes care of the livestock on the farm. Ben is versatile and creative, often making new tools to simplify life on the farm. Ben has taken over the weekly delivery route and also helps Walter with meat packaging in the butcher shop. Recently Ben has been learning meat cutting. In addition to helping with construction, form making, polyurea and building the amazing scaffolding that kept us safe, Ben is the stone cutter who carved all the marble in the bathroom and the granite sills in the hall and rooms of our butcher shop.

Will helped with building the butcher shop and south field Ark. Will is fascinated by physics, mathematics, engineering and excellent at word play. He is the metal master in the building of our butcher shop, constructing all the stainless steel doors, cabinets, tables and shelves. He is currently working off farm at a local furniture maker that buys maple hardwood from our forest and teaching waltz classes.

Holly trucked our pigs to the butcher and delivered our meat around Vermont to stores, restaurants and individuals for years. She decided she’s done with country living and moved back to the city and new adventures at the Washington Mental Health Institute. When she has the time she also draws portraits, plays music and occasionally writes an article for our blog as well as attending Quaker meeting.

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Hope loves theater, drawing, tigers, ferrets and has just about memorized all the Harry Potter books – she is a voracious reader. Ferrets are her favorite animal followed closely by tigers – or perhaps the other way around some days.

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30 Responses to Family

  1. Jason Donovan says:

    Hello ~ I have really enjoyed your web site. I only wonder how you are able to sustain a family with a small farm? Do you own your land and home or do you have a mortgage? I have a wonderful wife and 4 children. We also home school our children and long deeply for living in the country away from the maddness of busy civilization. However, I am very leary of making a good go at it as I have a good paying job, and great bennifits with medical, dental, retirement 401K etc……

    Any advice would be greatly appriciated. It’s difficult yearing daily to be on a small farm living off the land as much as possible, and yet knowing it may be a rough road without a good paying job. Thanks so much for your time!!

    • We do have a mortgage and our farm pays the bills. We live very frugally. Even so, it takes a long time to develop a farm, like with many businesses, create the systems, products, markets, etc. I wouldn’t suggest giving all those benefits up right away. You have a lot of skills to gain and plan to make any transition slowly. You might transition by having one partner continue to have an outside job for the benefits and weekly paycheck while you both work to make the farmstead pay for itself and then support you. Start practicing in small ways now what you hope to do later – e.g., get some chickens, garden, have a summer pig, raise a lamb, learn construction techniques, etc.

  2. Darren Allen says:

    My wife and I took the leap 3 years ago by starting our farm. We started with 3 pigs and 4 Katahdin sheep. She works outside the home and I work here. I use to be a school teacher but left in 2001 when our second son was born. Some one needed to watch the kids. I have three sons now all go to our small rural local school. ( I was a behavior specialist when I was a teacher, not fun but the money was good) Now we have 35 Katahdins, 18 pigs, and 5 laying hens. Our farm and customer base is growing. We are going to put in a commercial kitchen and retail store for our products. Our goal? To make enough money so my wife can quit her job and work here. Our boys are involved with the farm bu doing chores, designing paddocks, and giving dad advice. I look forward to the day when they can lift the firewood and hay bales.

    • Keep working towards those goals every day, every month, every year. I would up the chickens. Not for the goal of laying eggs but because they are wonderful at pest control. The eggs are a side benefit if the chickens are laying hens. The extra eggs make great food for people, dogs and pigs in descending order of priority. Cooking the eggs doubles the available protein. You can feed them shell and all to the dogs and pigs. From your kitchen shells, crumple them up and feed them back to the hens to give them calcium in the winter. In the summer they get plenty just from the insects.

  3. Jason Donovan says:

    Darren, great for you and your family!! I am very eager for the day when my family and I are able to start our own farm. I’t brings encouragement to hear success stories such as yours as I plan for our adventure some day in the future. Right now financially my wife and I both have to work. My wife homes schools our four children and has two young children she cares for during the week. Anyway good luck and enjoy the farm!!

  4. Darren Allen says:

    Thanks guys! Good knowledge Walter. Yes we use the meat birds in the spring/summer/fall to follow the sheep when we move them from paddock to paddock to control the parasitic worms. (Joel Salatin write about this in his literature). Im not fond of chickens, Im not a big egg eater, but I do love eating them and they do seem to do a good job on the insects, god knows we have a lot of them here in the warmer months. We just had 13 Tam-Large Black piglets born last week and are awaiting the arrival of Svletlina’s letter (our other Tamworth.) Its a hoot. I love pigs such awesome animals The sheep are for lawnmowing, and eating.

  5. kieran kearns says:

    Hi i just want to say this is the best pig site i have ever been on it is full of knowledge,we have just started our own freerange farm here in Ireland and we are currently looking for some customers have you any tips on how we might achive this,weare in a small comunnity so it might be difficult,keep up the excellent work.
    kind regards
    Kieran Kearns

    • When we were getting started we began by making posters with tear-off tabs at the bottom which had our phone number. We hung these on the for-sale bulletin boards of the local feed stores, general stores and such. Check to see if you need any licensing for selling retail, etc.

      For sales to restaurants and stores we first got our wholesale license and then dropped by local places and gave the chefs & meat managers samples of our pork along with a brochure and business card.

      Building market share takes years. Over time your customers become an additional source of new sales with word of mouth spreading how good your product is. Go at it slowly and persistently – it is a process.

  6. kieran kearns says:

    Thanks Walter will keep that in mind.

  7. Ryan Tozier says:

    Walter, Your site is awsome! We live in rural KY. I am active duty Army and have a little over a year left to retire. We purchased a small 13 acre peice of ground a few years back and have built an inground home. We grow a 160x60ft garden every year and last year I found the website of a family that raises pigs in thier garden during the cold months. It seemed to make sense, so I jump right in and fenced in a 36x36ft pen with hog panels (not cheap at all). We got 2 Hamshires and a Yorkshire. The Hampshires are a month or so older and have reach 200 and 260 lbs. I am wanting to sell one to defray the cost of processing the other for ourselves and get back a little of the money invested thus far. The Yorkshire will be another couple of months to finish and we plan to sell that one as well. What advice do you have for going about the sale of my first finished pig? They have been feed only water and 14% Hog finisher (corn/soy). They did get the occasional table scraps, but very little and no meat. They also received dewormer in thier water every 30 days for the first 3 months. Other than the dewormer no antibiotics or anything else were used. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Ryan

    • This is how we started with the pigs and sheep using one of our gardens as their winter paddock. They turned terrible, thin, poor mountain soil into thick, rick, fertile black garden soil very quickly. It was wonderful. The year after animals have been in a garden I tend to grow non-root crops for us there, like broccoli, tomatoes, corn, squashes, etc. Later root crops since it wasn’t composted.

      For selling the other pig, find someone ahead of time, or two people, who want it and get a deposit. We take a $100 deposit. Then at slaughter time they pay processing plus the hanging weight times $3.50/lb minus their deposit. Deposits are non-refundable. They can find someone else to take on their share if it doesn’t work for them. Advertise with word of mouth first, then if you still need to find someone try a poster at the local general stores, etc.

  8. Ryan Tozier says:

    Great advice Walter, thanks! I was thinking $1 a pound live weight, but $3.50 lb hanging weight + processing sounds much better. There are a couple of small country stores a couple miles away. Think I will try flyers there first. Great thought about no root plants this year as well, never thought of that. Will likely put tomatoes in that area and move the paddockto different part of the garden for next year’s pigs. Thanks again! Ryan

    • As a general rule I find that:

      Hanging Weight = 72% of Live Weight

      Thus $1/lb live weight comes to about $1.39/lb hanging weight which is a very low price for quality pork. That’s like the “about to fall out of expiration date manager’s special” at the supermarket. Don’t sell yourself short. I think you’ll find that the cost of raising the pig exceeds that by a considerable amount. See the article Pastured Pork Pricing for some more thoughts on this.

      Commercial Cuts Weight = 67% of Hanging Weight

      The commercial cuts is without things like the back fat, head, trotters and other low on the hog cuts that some people don’t want and you don’t find in the supermarket. e.g., Just pork chops, loin, ham, sirloin, tenderloin, country ribs, shoulder, butt, ground, etc are in the commercial cuts. For a lot more details on this see the “What is a Half Pig Share” article which includes a pork cut chart featuring our boar Archimedes. You can also find our order form on the literature page which may give you additional ideas.

      I find that my broccoli and other cole crops do fantastically in the first year winter paddock garden. They are raised up above the soil so no parasite issues as the garden cools and becomes safer for root crops. Other things that really like the heavy feeding are pumpkins including the giants.

  9. Christine Fair says:

    Recently started a small family farm focused on pasture pork and poultry. We are located in N. Florida so mild winters do not deter parasites. We have 3 gilts and a boar hog “on loan”. I have noticed lice on the gilts and was wondering how to control it naturally. Also the gilts are approx 9-10 months old and have not been wormed. However they root under two pine trees in one of their areas.

    • The pine may well help. Learn to do a fecal exam. It’s a great school project. You can do it with a kid’s microscope – no need to get anything fancy. Then you can find out if the pigs need worming or are fine.

      Doing managed rotational grazing will help a lot. Feeding garlic helps. See this article about Worms au Natural.

      On the lice, and same for mites, I’ve read that a good solution is to pour vegetable oil along the back of the pigs and behind their ears and even in the ears. Apparently this suffocates the parasites. I have never tried it as we’ve never had those problems, probably due to our cold weather.

  10. Zack says:

    You have a wonderful family. I really like how you all pull together to make things happen.

  11. Jane Fleig says:

    Hello Walter,
    found this website this morning and have been reading for hours! An old man on the mountain got very sick and was put in the hospital.We went up and got his pigs. One is a sow and other than very hungry seems to be Okay the other a huge boar has some big sores on the side of his knees that are the size of your fist he also was very hungry we got them into a pen and will slowly bring them up to par on the feed as I don’t want to make them sick but they have rooted up the entire pen they were in as well as ate all the food we gave them.
    My question is what antbiotic should we give him? and this boy is huge! and is it right to slowly bring them back up to a normal amount of food so they don’t get sick?I know cows and horses but not so much about pigs,but couldn’t leave em to be turned loose on their own.And let me tell you pigs don’t herd like cows or horses!!!!!!

    • He may not need any antibiotic. Is there infection? Is it getting worse or better? Pigs have very strong immune systems and heal up from major cuts without any need for antibiotics. I would watch him, check the heat of the wound, draining, if it is healing or not.

      Among the things I might feed him, and her, might be yogurt to aid their digestion in balancing and garlic which is helpful as a dewormer and for healing.

      Without knowing what they’ve been eating before it is hard to say a specific diet. Most of all it sounds like they have been low on food so ease them up rather than gorging. Pigs are omnivores and will eat most anything. If they are not overly hungry they will tend to avoid eating things that aren’t good for them. Were they in a pen and grain fed before? If so start with that. Otherwise I would give them pasture, hay, dairy, vegetables, fruit, etc. Dated bread is a good easily digested high energy food you might use in moderation if you have it available.

      Pigs do herd nicely, they have their little quirks but the basics is the same as with cows, horses, sheep or cats.

      I would suggest deworming them, moving them and then deworming them in a few more weeks.

      Good luck!

  12. George says:

    I am new to razing pigs can thy eat pumpkins

  13. Michael says:

    You guys are such a great inspiration to myself and my wife. We have one boy and currently live on a small patch but now that my wife just earned her teaching stripes (we debate over homeschooling often), we want more. The lifestyle that you and your family lead is exactly the type of rewarding and fulfilling life that I want for our family.

    I could go into the huge number of ideas and plans we have as (typical) burgeoning homesteaders but will leave it to the imagination. Suffice it to say, we think that you all really do understand the importance of life and are leading it in a really aspiring way.

    Kudos and keep up the great work.

  14. Eric says:

    Hi Walter, I am so glad to find your site. We will be starting a Farm to Table in the next 1 to 2 years. Some of our concerns would be the butchering of the animals. As you, i consider building a facility on my property. I was wondering if you have advice for me. In Cobleskill New York is a 30 day course in slaughter to butchering animals all the way to fine cuts. I am looking into getting into the program. Any opinions on this. Thank you

    • I would suggest doing something like that. I don’t know that particular program. We apprenticed for 18 months with master butcher Cole Ward to learn the art of commercial meat cutting on pigs and it was a very valuable experience. I would also suggest getting every DVD video, internet video and book you can on the processing. I find that being exposed to the information in many ways many times really helps get the details. Then it is a matter of doing it a lot. Rinse and repeat to perfect technique.

  15. Eric says:

    thanks Walter, as I get more info, i will contact you. I will communicate with you on and off as I progress, and need more advice. You have a beautiful place. By the way, we also home schooled for five years in the past. thank you Eric

  16. bharat basumatary says:

    Hi Walter,
    I am happy to find your site. I’ve started a farm in Assam, India. Its seems that my 4 month old pigs growth are not satisfactory. Could you suggest me on feeding? what is your arrangement for feed? You produce it yourself or purchase it from the market.

    Thanks

    Bharat

  17. Nicole says:

    I’d like to live there! Beautiful property

  18. Tim says:

    Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent blog!|

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