It’s official, Tamworths love Chimacum, are moving here in droves, and raising their young. To the joy of all bacon lovers, they are also crowding their way into the Corner’s “MEAT FROM HERE” locker. “What is a Tamworth?” you ask.
The Tamworth is an old heritage breed hog descended from “Irish Grazers”, an ancient European pig domesticated from wild boars that retained their ability to graze and thrive in woodlands. In 1812 a wise Englishman recognized their commercial value and imported a herd to his estate in Tamworth of Staffordshire England. The herd was bred with several hardy feral English breeds to produce the Tamworth, also referred to as the “Mahogany” or “Grizzly” because of their reddish color and generalized hairiness.
Known for their long legs, long snout, and extra long torso (don’t forget torso = bacon), they are healthy, friendly, and more self-sufficient than other pigs with abilities to graze on grass, “open gestate” and nurture their offspring. These characteristics lessen their need for expensive containment and food. Combine this with their adaptation to northern climes and you’ve got an ideal easy-to-maintain pig for the small Northwest farmer.
And that brings us to the BarDan Farm where Barb and Dan Cutts have lived off the grid on a forested ridge high above Discovery Bay since 1998. They are the Corner’s new pork providers.
To get to their modest but fabulous 8.5 acre abode, one needs to journey 2 miles up a steep winding logging road. The views unfold behind you, and a large solar panel greets you. Several forest patches have been lovingly cleared of forest and salmonberry and have been planted with pasture, turnips and fodder beets. Wandering about are chickens, Cashmere goats, and now… pigs!
With fourteen years of hard work under their belts, the Cutts dream of the day they’ll be able to support themselves by living off BarDan Farm without outside jobs. Dan, a Navy Veteran, spent most of his life traveling the world and was deeply inspired whenever he saw farmers coaxing large amounts of food from small plots of land. Barb grew up in a family that grew and preserved their own food and has always worked jobs relating to agriculture.
They haven’t reached their dream of complete self-sufficiency yet. Dan works full-time at a mill in Port Angeles, but Barb spends all her time on the farm tending animals, gardening and working on fencing. Come weekends, their idea of a good time together is clearing bush. So how to go that last distance and free up Dan once and for all?
Maybe pigs are the answer, Tamworth pigs. The Cutts’ thinking was that Tamworths would not only provide a source of income, but could majorly pitch in and help with the land-clearing duties. They bought a breeding pair, and named them after Barb’s grandparents, Mema and Papaw, hoping that the real Mema and Papaw’s sweet dispositions would somehow transfer over. They did.
When Mema had her first litter of 9, the Cutts talked with Chuck and Julie Boggs who suggested they talk to John Foss, the Corner’s meat manager, who for the last 2+ years has been searching for the perfect source of local affordable pork. Within an hour of meeting the Cutts, John bought six piglets and has since involved himself closely in all aspects of the their upbringing, slaughter, and processing.
The pigs were raised on barley from Adolphsons in Sequim mixed with molasses and flax seed from Leitz farm in Port Angeles, diatomacous earth, and any supplemental sources of protein and calories John could score from the store culls. No hormones or antibiotics were used and the males did not have to be castrated, as the boar taint present in most breeds isn’t a problem in Tamworths. Once grown, they were slaughtered by the Puget Sound Meat Producer Cooperative in Port Orchard, then cut and wrapped by Minders Meats in Bremerton. Local, local, local.
The prized Tamworth pork bellies were taken to David Pearlstein of Link Lab Artisan Meats in Seattle and made into what John calls the world’s best bacon. (John’s special advice: “Lock your doors when cooking this, or next thing you know, your neighbors will all be over!”) The shoulder cuts, David ground into amazing beer brats for our Inter-Dependence Day party July 6th. The remaining cuts, pork chops etc, reside in our “Meat From Here” locker and eagerly await your grill.
All in all, Barb and Dan are very happy with how things turned out and are in the process of expanding so they can add another sow. Earlier this week Mema had her second litter, this time 10 piglets! And they aren’t the only ones in Chimacum falling for Tamworths. Janet Aubin and Jeff Horwath (Finnriver) and Dan Hysko (Peat Plank) are raising Tamworths for meat. Doyle Yancey (Egg and I Fuchsias) is raising Tamworth wiener pigs. He sold his first 2 litters (19 piglets) lickety-split and was forced to turn away buyers. Others are bound to follow. Yesterday, I heard Mr. Foss himself fantasizing about the day he might raise a couple hogs of his own. Looks like Chimacum has welcomed Tamworths with open arms (and mouths) as should you!