At Quick Bear Farm we raise pigs that never receive antibiotics or artificial or extracted hormones. They spend only the first few weeks of their lives confined, and after that they roam in one of our pastures. This means they get exercise, and enjoy a varied diet of grasses, roots and berries supplementing the produce, dairy and grain we feed them. Lately, our pigs have been eating the following: organic vanilla ice cream and yogurt, organic boysenberry puree, cooked butternut squash, barley, wheat, field peas, squash from our farm, apples from our farm, plums, cherries, and we finish them off with hazelnuts or pecans.
Pigs are social and curious by nature, and this way of raising pigs allows them to socialize and roam, giving them natural pig lives. They run and root, and wallow in mud, eat together and sleep together. The term for a group of pigs–a drift–makes sense once you see them moving freely. Moving freely like this reduces stress. Stressed pigs carry those hormones in their meat, and that gives an off-taste; ours have a couple of days of stress (when we wean and move them, and when we castrate the males), but other than those days, they have great lives (and one bad morning). We think raising animals like this demonstrates respect for them, and for how they have evolved.
We have two genetic lines at present, a hybrid Hampshire/Poland China cross, and a registered Berkshire line. Berkshire pork is widely recognized as the most flavorful of any pork, but the hybrid pork is also excellent–mostly because of how we raise our animals–their varied diet and their lives out on pasture.
Some of the hybrid babies before moving to the pasture.
Some of the Berkshire babies–a few days old, with mom.
Raising pigs on pasture creates highly flavorful pork with a natural balance of fat and lean tissue. Pen-raised, factory-farmed pork has a bland taste and a texture that is mushy.
beautiful boneless chops
Pastured pork bacon makes great BLTs.
Our goal at Quick Bear Farm is to join the community of sustainable farmers in the Lost Creek drainage. Others provide organic vegetables, free-range beef and free-range poultry. Our contribution is healthy pork, raised naturally and sustainably. As part of the locavore movement, we sell our pork at the Dexter Farmers Market during the summer and early fall, and sell from our farm year-round. It will not make us wealthy, but it does make us happy. We are proud that we feed our animals from locally grown vegetables, and locally milled grain, and that our carbon footprint is consequently small.
Part of our vision includes building self-sufficiency in our community. Toward this goal, we have opened our facility for informal workshops where we help customers butcher their pigs, rather than sending them off to commercial facilities (more on this program can be read in the products section). We imagine a future where neighbors know each other, and pull together. Building an economy where goods and services come from next door, or across the creek, brings us closer to realizing this vision.
Lost Valley in perspective
We didn’t start out as farmers, but this is where our path has led. We started as educators, and first learned how to study a subject in order to pass it on to others. The land, our animals and our community are now our subjects, and we take pleasure in learning what they have to teach us. One thing we have learned is that we think we own the land, but really we just pass over it; others will follow, and we hope to leave this land capable of supporting those generations to come. Sustainability is the key. Join us at Quick Bear Farm, and be part of our community!