Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Piglets, chickens, and kittens OH MY

Attendees admiring the feeder pigs at Copper Hill Farm
This past Sunday CT NOFA held its second On-Farm Workshop of the summer, Pasture-Raised Pigs on a Diversified Organic Farm, lead by Greg Hazelton, CT NOFA board member and the owner of Copper Hill Farm in West Suffield, CT. It was the perfect day to tour Greg's farm and listen to him eloquently speak about his experience raising pigs, chickens and growing produce as a one man operation at Copper Hill for the past four and half years. 
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After a brief introduction from Greg the group was lead to the happiest place on earth, a pen full of weeks old piglets and their mother, a shireworth sow. Over the squealing of excitement from both the piglets and the workshop attendees, Greg explained how piglets should not be separated from their mother before reaching 6 weeks old, and during this time the sow should have access to all the food she wants in order to produce as much milk as needed. A major challenge most beginning pig farmers run into is finding healthy farrow to raise, Greg explained the importance of buying from a farmer you trust and know. 



As we moved into the main barn area, Greg discussed the importance of making connections in the local community; through donations of surplus cereal products and food waste from local supermarkets and restaurants Greg is fortunate enough to feed his pigs at little to no cost to his business. The diet of the pigs are very important; besides the produce from the local super market the pigs eat organic. Before going to slaughter the pigs are on a diet of grass and veggies in order for the meat to be lean and more delicious. The feeder pigs are kept outdoors in a spacious, fenced in area which is relocated every few days in order for them to graze efficiently. Pigs can also be great farm helpers; they can turn compost piles and till your soil! The group was also briefly distracted by the litter of new born barn kittens, again the happiest place on earth. 
800lbs has never looked so good

The next step in raising pigs is a bit dismal but inevitable, saying goodbye to your farrow friends and sending them off to slaughter. In Connecticut this poses as slight challenge since there is not a USDA approved facility in the state; Greg usually travels to Hilltown Pork in Canaan, NY. Greg also discussed the veiled aspects of raising pigs, sometimes you can become emotionally attached and it can be hard to send them off to be slaughtered; his first sow has become too overweight to get pregnant and he admits it will be hard to bring her to be slaughter. 


The workshop winded down when Greg lead the group to the lower portion of the farm where he has two, large fenced in areas for his chickens. While gathered around the chickens, Greg answered final questions from the attendees and shared some parting wisdom. 


"those Rhode Island Reds are looking good"
CT NOFA would like to thank Greg for a wonderful afternoon. You can find Copper Hill Farm's pork cuts, eggs, and produce every Saturday at the Ellington Farmers Market and Wednesdays at the East Granby Farmers market.


FUN FACTS!

  • Sows come into heat every 21 days
  • Pigs have no sweat glans, they sweat through their mouths
  • You cannot eat a pig that has its testicles, who knew!
  • A tell tale sign that a sow will soon be going into labor is when she makes a nest

2 comments:

  1. 800 lbs never looked so good? Hey now...I've been on a diet... ;) (I'm the human in that pic) ;)

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