Farm Life, Food & Swine

We Are Pig Farmers

We are pig farmers. 

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Let me share a bit about our diverse pig farm:
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We raise pigs in different ways on our family farm.  We have modern style pig barns where we raise hogs from 50 pounds to market weight, or roughly 280 pounds.  Those barns host around 1,000 head of pigs apiece and we have 4 of them, in two different locations.  My husband and an employee handle the day to day chores and oversight on those barns.  (I wrote a post about Our Modern Pig Barns if you’d like to see more about them.)

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Wait, it only looks like you have 10 pigs in your pictures on Twitter, where are the others?

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We also have about 15 sows that we raise outdoors and a handful of their offspring that we have outdoors and in barns with access to the outdoors as well.  This is our hobby and we show those pigs in livestock shows.
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Those sows (Mama pigs) farrow in farrowing crates inside in the warm barn in the winter and sometimes farrow outdoors in the summer with lots of bedding.  Either way, they are well cared for as any pig in our care is.  The reason you see lots of pictures of these animals (the show pigs) is that they are in my direct care and I always have my phone with me when I do chores (stay-at-home farm Mom’s do that).
Sometimes I catch photo bombers in my pictures… see below, top left corner.
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In the modern barns, I have come too close to dropping my phone between the slats (where the manure falls through the floor), so I leave it in the car… usually!  (See the slats in the picture below… oh, and did you know that white pigs aren’t the only pigs we can raise in modern barns?  This breed is called the Berkshire.)
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Who makes decisions on your farm?
The one thing I know is there is no one more qualified to judge how their animals should be cared for, than any farmer on his or her own farm.  There are so many variables that play in to the type of farming setup on each farm.  (Think: facilities, experiences of the farmers, etc.)
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We consult veterinarians regularly to assist in keeping our pigs healthy and well managed.  It is essential to keep the pigs in our care comfortable, because then they will be most productive and grow to market weight efficiently.  This modern pig farming is what puts dinner on the table for us and gives us the ability to keep our hobby of raising MORE pigs,  a possible venture.
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Why raise pigs in barns you ask? What about the dreamy pictures I take of pigs swimming in pools, in the summer?
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Well those pigs would give their curly tail to be in a 70 degree modern style barn during the winter weather this time of year.

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Plus, there is a mountain lion (caught on video a mile away!) in our neck of the woods, so I’m always a nervous wreck when those wild (animal) rumors swirl.  Here’s a picture of the 3 Duroc (breed name) girls that got a lot of our attention this summer… this was their nightly pen, before their move to a shed on a big lot, with SNOW.  I’ll remind you, this is our hobby and nothing that really makes us a lot of money.  We have chores up to our ears, but do enjoy it.
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Hollywood hits the farm…
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Recently, many celebrities have weighed in on their opinions of how pigs should be raised.  Are they entitled to those opinions? Why sure they are.  (Does that mean we’re entitled to select their wardrobe for a tour or the playlist of songs during their show? Kidding.)  Aside from that, I want you to know if you have a question about raising pigs, please don’t hesitate to ask me.  I’d love to talk pigs with you… or pie, or cookies, or breads or cakes, etc.
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It can be hard to put yourself and your farm out there…
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There are many detractors in the social media sphere that make it difficult to “stick ‘yer neck out there”, and tell your farm’s story. These people (who typically are paid) will do anything to smear your way of life, whether they prefer not to eat meat at all, or raise hogs differently than you do.  I began blogging to share recipes.  However, my family’s life is entwined with farming and pigs so much, and it is something I like to share a bit because we are proud to be pig farmers.
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I understand that some of my friends (most of my very best friends) are removed from the farm, ie: didn’t grow up on a farm or have a family tie. Production agriculture has changed the methods of farming (to meet the demand for food), but will never change the need to provide quality care to animals.  Yes, farms need to make a profit to survive, and no farm will be profitable without providing the best care to the animals they raise.  Whether in the show barn…
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or the big barn…
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We are proud to eat the pork that’s on your dinner table too…
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(Photo courtesy of Darcy Maulsby.)
At the end of the day, know that the pigs we’re raising in our barns end up on our dinner table as they do on yours.  We’re proud to provide a safe, delicious product (hello, bacon) for many families to enjoy.
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GIVEAWAY ALERT!!!
And, I want to sincerely thank you for reading along with me, your support means everything and I appreciate it.  And if you read to the end of this post, leave a comment (about anything, how about your farming experience(s)?) here and I’ll be drawing for two #RealPigFarming “Pigs The Inventors of Bacon” t-shirts at the end of next week!

EXTRAAAAA!
As usual, I have so  many pictures I wanted to add to this post and I’m going to do just that.  Here’s the extras!
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This little guy loves to welcome new feeder pigs at the barns… mostly because he gets to see a big semi.
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This can be what a #realpigfarming date-night looks like.  I think this semi is gorgeous… and our trucker is simply, the BEST.
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Kids like to play in dirt out in the lot.
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And check for milk to see if a sow is getting close.  (This is Sandra, she’s quite a nice Mama and we’re always nearby when the kids are around these big girls.)
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My poor little girl came out to meet her new Christmas gift (her Dad’s gift) that she named: Vanilla Ice Cream.  She had the flu and dressed herself to come outside to meet her new girl.
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When we let the sows out of the crates to wean the babies, the kids love to hop in and play.
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He enjoys being in the big barns, helping adjust feeders and cleaning out waterers.
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65 Comments

  • Reply David Tschetter December 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    awsome Blog, really enjoyed reading it, So great to see a Family run Farm that includes the young kids!! Great work , keep it Up!!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you David! I appreciate it!

  • Reply Erinn Fitzpatrick December 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I’m so happy that I came across your blog, I’ve been enjoying it for the last few weeks! I am a lawyer in northern Ontario and I’ve secretly always wanted to be a pig farmer, so in the last few years I’ve participated in some neat volunteer opportunities that have allowed me to test drive my dream.

    It’s easy for people to see youtube videos of terribly run confinement operations and jump to conclusions about that type of farming as a whole (I understand these types of annoying generalizations because I have to endure a lot of awful lawyer jokes!). I like the *idea* of pastured pigs, and I had an opportunity to work on a farm with 300 pastured pigs last summer. It was glorious, but an astounding amount of work to lug pails of feed and hoses around an 100 acre farm all day long and chase pigs (and BE CHASED by gigantic pigs at dinnertime!!!!) and make sure all the pigs were safe and fed and cool.

    Having 4,000 pigs on pasture on one farm is just not feasible with the amount of land and employees and safety factors to consider for both the pigs and the humans involved. The cost would be astounding to run a pastured farm of that size. Some people are willing to pay $9.00+lb for organically fed and pastured pork, but the majority of the world cannot afford that luxury.

    I would love to one day have a small pastured operation with a fun heritage breed, but that doesn’t mean I am against confinement operations, the majority being run by lovely families such as yours who work hard all day and care deeply about the welfare of both their animals and their customers. Both of these styles of farming can co-exist without having to be pitted against each other.

    p.s., I wish I was getting a gorgeous in-pig sow for Christmas! Best present ever.

    Kindest regards,
    Erinn

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Erinn, thank you for your kindness! I hope you get to have your pig farm some day! I know you will. I love your last quote “both of these styles of farming can co-exist without having to be pitted against eachother”. You’re so right. Thank you for stopping by and commenting! Merry Christmas! XOXO

  • Reply Lori slings December 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I love learning about what your family does daily on the farm….oh and I love pork….but especially bacon!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks Aunt Lori! You’ve always made the best ham at any holiday… you are the Ham Queen! Thanks for reading. Love, Crissy

  • Reply Beth Ann December 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Can I say I loved this post? A lot. Thanks for sharing your farm and family with us as well as your fabulous recipes. 🙂

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Thanks Beth Ann, you’re too kind. I appreciate it more than you know. (And I caught a glimpse of a new teapot I MUST OWN… I love to read your series on them!) Cristen

  • Reply Katie December 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Perfect post, my friend. I’m proud to know you and proud to support what you and Mike do! Keep on goin, sister!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Your support means so much Katie, thank you for commenting and sharing on Facebook. Often times I am not sure if people are even interested in our lives on the farm, but if I please one person (especially a former softball teammate), I’m happy. Now, to get Miss Mia out to see baby pigs this spring! Thank you again, Cristen

  • Reply Josh December 9, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    This article is awesome! It’s great to see how your kids are growing up knowing what agriculture and animal stewardship is all about!! Thanks for your first hand insight and willingness to share with others! It really does take a lot to put your farm and experiences out there for all to criticize!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Josh, you are so right and thank you for stopping by to read and for the kind words. I appreciate it!

    • Reply Cristen December 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Josh, you are the winner of one of the #realpigfarming tshirts! Will you email me your physical address? Send it to foodandswineinfo@gmail.com and I’ll get it sent out tomorrow! Thanks!

  • Reply Lois December 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Love pork but I don’t farm. Grew up in colfax so keep on farming

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      We’re close by Lois! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, I appreciate it!

  • Reply crookedbrandranch December 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Enjoyed this post! Love the piggys! 🙂

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply Carl F. Tanner, CEC December 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    As a certified Chef, I appreciate all aspects of farming. Especially pigs raised humanely and with so much love. That will certainly effect the end product in positive ways. I’m impressed!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Thank you Carl! So glad you stopped by!

  • Reply Diane Gannon December 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    i am really glad you are promoting pork. Thanks

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      You’re certainly welcome, Diane. It is my favorite meat… so I cheer loudly!

  • Reply Isabelle December 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    LOVE this post and shared it on my facebook. I’ve been trying hard to find blogs about pigs because I want to start one myself too eventually and wanted to read more about family farms before starting my internship at a big commercial farm. Thank you!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      I hope you enjoy your internship and if you ever have any questions you can always come here, I’d love to help you in any way I can, Isabelle!

  • Reply moreLambchops December 9, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to post this to my Facebook page, Farm Babe, to share! Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you so much! I appreciate the share!

  • Reply Cheryl Wiggins December 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Great read, photos, & information!!! Loved the photo bomb best! Thankful you are able to share your farm stories with the world!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks Cheryl! Those photo bombers ended up in quite a few pictures (unknowingly) from that day… crazy pigs.

  • Reply Jackie December 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Enjoyed reading your blog! As a hog farmer’s daughter, I can relate to many of the experiences you and your family share on a daily basis. What great opportunities for your kiddos to learn and be a part of as well! Looking forward to checking back in as you write more!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you Jackie!

    • Reply Cristen December 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Jackie! You are the winner of a #realpigfarming tshirt! Can you send your address to foodandswineinfo@gmail.com and I’ll get the shirt in the mail to you tomorrow? Thanks!

  • Reply ceil slings December 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I loved this post. It brought back a memory of my sister Colleen getting chased by a large sow in our early days. It was scary at the time but is now hilarious to me! 🙂

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      Oh Mom… I’m sure you were up on the fence watching with glee. Since you and Colleen got along so well in your youth. XOXO

  • Reply Denny December 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Right on girl!. I was raised on the farm and often wish I took the jump to do it full time. But times have past and I often look out at my 4 acres and shut down egg laying barn and go “HUM, how many hogs would fit comfortably in there. To bad in this country you feel that you need to stick your neck out to correct people who “HAVE NO UNDERSTANDING” of what a proper run operation is.

    Hang in there and enjoy to challenges and watching your family grow in a great environment.

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      Thank you Denny, you’re so kind!

  • Reply Jena sigel December 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Very well written. I come from a commercial based family farm in PA, currently on a 2800 Farrow to wean farm. I was previously on a 5600 Farrow to wean farm. I enjoyed all your pictures but my favorite was the photo bombed one. Lol 😉

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you Jena! You are a busy girl I bet! Aren’t those photo bombers naughty pigs? We A.I. so much with the show pigs that when we do have ‘natural encounters’ it is quite a show!

  • Reply Renae December 9, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    My husband just showed me your blog, I love it. We have a small pig farm, 15 sows right now, a couple boars and some gilts we’re keeping for replacements. We use crates and open farrowing pens depending on the sow. We even skype into our barn when a pig is due so we can leave our jobs to be with the farrowing sows. We started raising pigs mainly for 4H kids and would like to get more into showing. It’s so nice to see someone else that cares for their pigs like we do. Keep up the good work!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      I love the Skype idea! We’re going to be out of town when some of my ladies are farrowing and I may just have to set that up! Thanks Renae, and thank you to your husband for introducing us! XOXO Good luck (and PS: 15 sows is a lot of work! Go girl!)

  • Reply angie pfannkuch December 9, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Love reading your blog. I grew up on a farm and reading about your farm life, really makes me miss it!

    • Reply Cristen December 9, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      Awwww, thanks Angie! You’re welcome out here anytime, friend!

  • Reply Robin December 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Miss Cristen, don’t you dare change what you do or “edit” real life pig farming for some uninformed nitwit. I live the real pig farming and I think it is absolutely fabulous that you share it, and that you are able to put into words how much we do care about our babies! I love your writing style, I love how you write about baking, and babies (2 legged and 4 legged) and I truly hope you don’t change a thing. This is REAL life. Too bad that so many critize it (maybe they should try it and get a dose of reality). Don’t change a thing-you just keep on doing what you do so well!

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Robin, you are the best pig farmer we have the opportunity to work with! I won’t change a bit, promise!

  • Reply Jane Carlson December 9, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Cristen–your blog is like having a good book to read!

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Oh Jane! You are too nice!

  • Reply Timmery December 9, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Love your blog!… don’t change a thing. My boyfriend and I are starting our 2nd year of raising Berkshire’s and Fair/Show pigs in Idaho. I love coming here and seeing your stuff on your pigs and the wonderful recipes you share. Thank you for letting us in to your life.

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks for your kindness! My daughter wants a Berk so badly! We have friends out in Idaho that show pigs as well. I appreciate you stopping by!

  • Reply Pat Stiller December 10, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Great piece! My hub used to tease me that if I stayed in MN I might have married a pig farmer. Now I see what a wonderful life I probably missed, LOL. Question: My eight year old granddaughter LOVES pigs and wants one so bad (teacup). What do you think of pigs as pets, if one doesn’t live on a farm?

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Pat! I love your comments. I unfortunately have zero experience with pigs as pets and teacup pigs. They sure are cute though!

  • Reply Sandy December 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for sharing your way of life. Your family is blessed to enjoy a farming lifestyle. I enjoy seeing your children outside helping, playing and getting as muddy as can be.

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks Sandy! Sometimes when I’m doing laundry I wonder what we were thinking, but they enjoy being outdoors so much.

  • Reply Jodi Steinbach December 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Great blog! Every farmer I know is both passionate about what they do as they are meticulous about how well their job is done. It takes a lot of pride to work that hard to produce a great crop or barn full of animals. My parents LOVE being pig farmers and I know it has taught us all much about dedication, hard work, and sacrifice (for others, or our own time). Thanks for keeping us enlightened and entertained with your posts! The Nikkels love the Slings!

    • Reply Cristen December 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks Jodi! We love you too. 🙂 I appreciate your kind words and friendship! XOXO

  • Reply Trisha December 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I appreciate reading a good farm blog. I was raised on a farm with dairy, sheep, chickens and the occasional beef steer. Your children will cherish the memories you are making.

    • Reply Cristen December 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Thank you Trisha! We love what we do, even though some of the lessons are a little interesting to teach. Memories for sure!

  • Reply Rich December 10, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing your farm experiences. I also raise pigs the hard way. I’m sure there are many days the pigs would prefer to be inside. I also raise Berkshires, so I feel your pain in dealing with the most stubborn breed. Keep up the good work.

    • Reply Cristen December 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Thanks Rich! Thinking of you and your chore-list during this cold time of year!

  • Reply Shari December 11, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Love your blog as our family is just like yours except my children are older. Our son grew up in our nursery buildings from the time he was 5 and could pretty much do anything out there. We built more finishers over the years and his own a few years ago. He and his wife farm with us now and just welcomed our first granddaughter 5 months ago! I know she will be out there with the pigs just like her dad. It taught our kids so much responsibility and everyone says they have the best work ethic around. Wish more people could realize how much work and care goes into those cute little pigs we raise. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Chapelle December 11, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    We just recently found your blog & love it! We’re a family of 6 in NH. We’ve been raising 2-6 feeder pigs for the past few yrs. This season we’re overwintering 2 gilts. We’re shopping for a boyfriend for them now & hope to farrow 2 batches of piglets this spring. Thanks for the pork sandwich recipe, I’m usually at a loss for what to do with my plain ground pork.

    • Reply Cristen December 12, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      I hope you like this recipe! I do have a few recipes up here (if you search “ground pork” or “pork” in the search bar they will pop up) because I too, can never think of what to do with the ground pork. I’ve just been substituting it for ground beef in everything and also have been subbing it for sausage in my breakfast sandwich! Do you all have Lawry’s seasoning available in your area? I swear it is the best seasoning EVER for ground pork! (I promise I wasn’t paid to say that, either!) XOXO from Iowa! Hope you have an easy time finding a boyfriend for your girls!

  • Reply Shelley June 3, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    I really enjoyed this. Ya learn something new everyday!!

    • Reply Cristen June 16, 2016 at 2:57 am

      Thank you Shelley! Hugs!

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