There is a lot of controversy surrounding our food supply of late, especially when it comes to meat. The deplorable conditions some animals are subjected to in poorly run battery farms has come to light in recent times and I wanted the opinion of a more sustainable natural animal farmer. I visited the Mitchell Family Farm that was established in 2015 when the owner decided to give up his life in the city and open his own farm. It is a heritage Berkshire pig farm located in Northern Ontario and plans to expand it to grow other produce as he progresses.
He had chosen to given up his life in the city because he himself had grown up on a farm and felt his family would benefit from the life of farming and set out to do so. Considering the recent establishment of his farm he has not achieved everything he has wanted to but he is well on his way to doing so, as time passes and crops come into their own. He uses many unique techniques that I had heard of but never seen put into practice. Every litter of pigs is grown on a different patch of land and uses their amazing foraging skills to till and fertilize his soil. By planting clover and other nutrient rich foods the pigs, simply by eating nurture the soil.
There were many reasons he chose to run his farm this way, especially focusing on the pig section of his farm. Berkshire pigs do not fair well in the battery farming environment and require more care than those variety of pigs. As such he was required to do this, more over he felt the battery farming of pigs was inhumane and on top of that resulted in a substandard product. This is because the pigs that are on his farm are allowed to run and behave as pigs do and are not just in pens and gorged on corn and other substitutes until they are big enough to be slaughtered.Thus resulting in a tastier meat which he notes in his produce. It was also intriguing to see just how few pigs they were, I have been to battery farms and there are 100s of pigs in the area that he had his 20 . He sells his pigs to be slaughtered and are sold in bundles to restaurants in the area and in the city. The day I visited we were treated to some sausage from his pigs, they were amazing. The only disappointment of the day was his farm was between litters so there were no piglets 😦
His farm is also very technologically advanced using some of the more advanced techniques available to farmers. His farm is completely off the grid, with solar panel arrays and batteries set up to provide him with energy year round. In addition he also is fortunate enough to have a natural water well on his farm, that supplies his farms with fresh water from a spring that originates further up hills.
He showed us all the crops he plans to grow, going into the future as he expands and sows and tills and builds up the fertility of the grounds. From potatoes to squash, tomatoes and berries.
He also chooses to grow these organically not using any pesticides which was evident by a giant caterpillar we found on one of the plants haha.
After touring the other areas of his farm we went to view the pigs.
They all appeared happy, well fed and had a great relationship with their farmer, the large hog who bore the litters even rolling over like a dog to have her belly rubbed. They also avoided selfies like I could not believe, took about 10 apples to get a picture. The farmer also highlighted how intelligent they were and pointed out something I had not noted; the pigs were quiet, when I visited the battery farm the pigs were often squealing so this change was very comforting.
It was nice to learn from this experience that there are farms even in Ontario that treat animals with respect, even though they will ultimately end up as food. They are living creatures and deserve some sort of life, and we should understand that even though we are at the top of the food chain. Also experiencing the difference in quality from non battery farmed meat and organically raised sealed it in me later in life when I may own or run my own restaurant the importance of knowing where my food comes from. So that I can have a smaller foot print on the planet, know the animals are treated fairly and that the food I serve my customers is of the highest quality making sure they come back time and time again.