By Wolf Ridge Naturalist
If you happen to be visiting the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm this summer, you might see some new critters stalking about.
Pigs, that’s right. We have 3 pigs in each of 4 pens (12 pigs total) rooting around the scrubland that was cleared a year ago. When they get moved to a new piece of ground, you can see the smile on their face as they dig into the sod, rooting around stumps and brush, eating weed roots and grubs, helping us dig this new ground. With the help of our pigs, not only will we get delectable meat to serve in the fall, but we get hours of work done with joy by the pigs, along with a little fertilizer to nurture the first crops as well. We, humans, follow the pigs through the fields, digging and pick axing the pig dug plots with a little less time in each plot.
Along with the natural food the pigs eat while they dig, we have set up a barley sprouting operation, so that the pigs obtain 80% of the barley nutrients instead of just 30% of the un-sprouted grain. They also get fresh water and some kitchen scraps to keep them happy and content. It does take some time to care for them by the farm crew, but through past experience, that time is offset by the time saved in the fields preparing that new ground into cropland. The bi-product is meat and fertilizer and a few stories.
One amazing pig story happened when, in the pigs’ excitement of the food arriving, a pig managed to leap over the panel fence and land at my feet.
I put the pile of food in their pen and that pig just couldn’t wait to get back into the pen. I lifted the pen side and he ran in. It is interesting that of all the pig pens, that pen, with the flying pig, has had the least success in plowing and digging up the ground. I hope that now that particular pig will focus more on digging than flying.
Past generations used this technique to clear their early fields, even driving a rod deep into the ground to put a little cracked corn down there to encourage those pigs to dig out larger roots and trees as they go. As the pigs grow, we notice them doing a better job, digging deeper, breaking through more shrub and tree roots, so by fall, the farm should have a lot more ground to till and cover crops to grow more food for the school. Pigs plowing works!