A Passion for Heritage Pigs

A burgeoning pig farmer perseveres through rough patches to provide pastured pork to farm-to-table restaurants.

  • The Idaho Pasture Pig is a breed that was developed to thrive on grass.
    Photo by Dorsey Kindler
  • The author got his start in farming by raising two Idaho Pasture Pigs and selling the meat to chefs.
    Photo by Christine Kindler

It began innocently enough in the fall of 2015 at a Mother Earth News Fair at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort outside of Donegal, Pennsylvania. I was there as a small-town newspaper reporter covering the event. I attended a lecture on raising rabbits, watched someone demonstrate aspects of bushcraft, and rode a ski lift up the mountain. But it was in the livestock tent that I received that fateful bolt of inspiration.

There, I bumped into Dave Cronauer of White Bison Farm in Laona, Wisconsin. He stood next to a small, straw-filled enclosure where spotted piglets snoozed among half-eaten apples. He explained that they were a new heritage pig breed called the Idaho Pasture Pig — a mix of Berkshire, Duroc, and Kunekune that was developed specifically to thrive on grass.

Though I was working as a reporter in Wheeling, West Virginia, I’d moved back to my family’s recently vacated farm in nearby St. Clairsville, Ohio, to start a grass-fed cattle operation. My wife, Christine, was a newly minted Ph.D. in agricultural economics. And my grandfather had successfully raised commodity beef on the 150-acre property for years. But for various reasons, we couldn’t come up with a workable plan.

“But what about pigs?” I thought to myself as I finished up with the day’s reporting. I could start small with a trial run of two, making for the perfect first enterprise. I texted the chef-owner of a farm-to-table restaurant back home in the Ohio Valley and asked if he was interested in pastured pork.

As luck would have it, he was. We agreed on $3 per pound. And at 34 years old, I began my first venture into agriculture.

Six months later, my dream became 40 pounds of wriggling reality as Dave’s wife, Jodi, dropped a piglet into my arms. She carried the second back to our vehicle.



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