December 15, 2010 piggus pileus

you’ve never really seen a pig pile like this.  they scatter when i approach, so the photo isn’t representative, but believe me, fifty pigs of a rainbow variety of sizes and colors and personalities, lying one on top of another and trying to keep warm, is a memorable site to walk on in the woods.  it’s a good ol’ fashion pig pile. 

they have really been utilizing the hay we put out, and it seems to be making a big difference.  the newest piglets, and the new mama, have established their own side nest, and over the last few days we have added several feet of insulation surrounding them.  as you can see in the video yesterday, mama uses her nose and some grunts to keep the piglets in the warm zone she (we) created.

and then there’s this guy.  do you see him?  which one of these is not like the other one…

this runty little tamworth piglet, who is most likely between six to nine weeks older than our newborns, is holing up in the nest as well.  he’s smart i guess, and found himself a pretty cushy little spot. 

he’s a little weak, and has a minor cough, which i’m hoping is not something the piglet’s can catch.  the forecast claims tonight is the last viciously cold night (for now), so hopefully everyone will bounce back stronger and warmer on the other end.

December 12, 2010

when it’s nine am, twenty eight degrees, and you’re in your backyard sawing down twenty-five foot bamboo shafts to build a floating pig shelter in the woods—you’ll be smiling too.  raising animals on pasture, or in the hog’s sake, on woodlot, means to have the ability to adapt to completely unexpected scenarios—constantly!—and to react to them through the most efficient, smartest, and cheapest (ideally $zero) manner possible.  over the next two days we are expected to have the coldest weather this region has experienced in over one hundred and fifty years (this early in the season).  considering the small size, and young age, of many of pch’s residents—including our surprise newborns—we have decided to take a little preemptive action and provide some quick hay nests for the herd to nestle into. 

using the bamboo from my backyard as a frame, and some scrap metal we found on the property as a roof, we used simple metal wire to attach the metal to the bamboo, and the bamboo to the tree.  This is over in the sow pen, where the animals are many hundreds of pounds and can definitely handle any condition jah earth has to throw.  the makeshift roof was added simply to keep the hay underneath a little dryer and provide some respite from the forecasted freezing rain.  although the hogs don’t need this to survive, survival of these animals is not our only goal—their comfort is of paramount importance.  stressed animals—stress of any kind—retards weight gains, inhibits sexual productivity, and wastes our money. 

over in general population, where we have about thirty very young piglets—including some that are just a few days old—we wanted to build something that will help and hold in some warmth.  the floating bamboo is great since it doesn’t allow the huge sows to destroy our creation, but it’s open walls do nothing for heat.  bales of hay, stacked two high, were used to create a wind-breaking wall for the new mama and her babies to hunker into.  within a few days the hay fort will most likely be totally destroyed, but at least it will bridge us through these next few nights of extreme temperatures. 

in other parts of the country, producers who raise hogs year round outside most likely have large, very stout huts for the hogs to take shelter in.  our hogs, however, due to georgia’s usually mild winter, survive year round with absolutely no structure or housing in sight.  just pigs in the woods.  that’s it and that’s all.

and here’s a shot of my bro, in for the weekend, falling for the oldest trick in the book.  i told him if he dropped trow and shat in the woods the pigs would consider him one of their own.  classic. 

October 27, 2010 terra madre wrap up

today, all i can do is laugh as i realize how impossible it is for me to share my terra madre experience with you in any sort of coherent or informative manner.  it has altered my life, my point of view, and my future course as a farmer, entrepreneur, and activist in deeply personal ways—in ways that shall not be understood in a blog post anytime soon.  this first attempt at wrapping up last weekend will flow from brain to finger with passion—yes—but with directness—not.

half way into terra madre and i was convinced it was how life actually is.  brothers and sisters of the earth from all corners, hills, valleys, rifts, seas, and pockets of this planet sharing, learning, teaching, and eating with one another.  sounds nice?  it was.

carlo pertrini, father, mother, and pounding heart of slow foods international, echoed these sentiments at the closing ceremony:  “being here at terra madre, i was wondering:  what crisis?”  but, alas, the truth is much darker, and far less witty.  for we are, in fact, in a crisis. 

the industrialization of living things—vegetables, fruits, pigs, cows, chickens, etc—and the industrialization of the human cogs that keep this system turning—has resulted in a sick, sick world.  one in every six human beings is dangerously under nourished and under fed.  for us americans, this statistic might seem hard to believe as our countrymen suck down frappuccinos and deep fried anythings as part of a daily routine, but at home, and far more commonly, abroad, people are dying. 

indigenous populations from the amazon to the northern reaches of scandinavia have lived clean, healthy, happy lives for generations upon generations.  the crushing force of “modernization” is literally killing these people.  their languages are being swallowed, their traditions stripped and clear-cut, and their access to food and water diminished. 

proponents of the green revolution will argue that our technology has exported the ability to produce xyz more bushels of corn and abc more kilos of grain per acre per year.  but to zoom in on the truth reveals a far different story.  yes, planting thousands of acres of mother earth to genetically modified soy beans, spraying them with chemicals that kills all life besides the bean, and tearing them from the earth with huge machines, will produce a lot of soy beans.  congratulations monsanto.  congratulations green revolution.

what about biodiversity?  what about soil fertility?  what about the fact that this approach to “agriculture” generates famine and death around the world?  people need balanced diets.  people need fresh food.  people need diversity.  people need to eat the foods that their people have evolved with for millennia.  good luck feeding babies with sacks of soy beans and rice that have sat in a warehouse for three years before entering a human stomach.   

so, i know this does little for you, reader, to understand my time at terra madre, but as i pondered my experience, the ache in my heart for the billion people word wide who know not a healthy diet, but know well hunger pains and death, i found it difficult to write about much else.  i am so thankful to have been exposed to this crisis and to these people so i can begin fighting for those who have already been beaten down.  for those without voice. 

farmer’s from peru, and from uganda, and from all corners of the world were begging us to speak for them.  begging us to change.  begging us to stop.  to turn a deaf ear, to do nothing, to pretend—you are killing human beings. 

wendell berry said, “eating is an agricultural act.”  when you buy packaged processed food you are also out there in the huge soy field, in the endless monocultures.  you are drinking crude oil and shitting toxic waste into waterways around the world.  you are killing indigenous cultures.  you are killing living beings.  you are killing the earth. 

support local farmers.  support biodiversity.  share this knowledge and change the world.  the president of slow foods usa paraphrased gandhi and said:  “when you fight for transformation, four things will happen.  first, they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  the overwhelming feeling, is that our time has come.  the time for change is upon us—upon all of us—and it is time to do something more about it.

it is exactly one year to the day since i told my boss on the floor of the new york stock exchange that i would be leaving at the year’s end to become a farmer.  one year to the day and i was representing my country—as a farmer.  this year has been a lifetime for my soul, but it is just the tip.  when i return from italy i will return to my land with a new appreciation, and a new thankfulness for what i have—and an new understanding for what others do not.  and i promise to do more for both.


oh….and she said yes!

for all my new terra madre friends, please excuse my sporadic posts as personal life trumps bloginal life.  ihoc will return with a renewed vigor, inspired by you, in two weeks time.  see you soon. 

October 14, 2010 terra madre & italia


like a magnetic beacon at the end of an impossibly long tunnel, terra madre is actually approaching.  thoughts, which have remained in the stratosphere for the last four months—as animals died, as the summer never stopped, and the piglets were born—thoughts which seemed surreal are now here.  we leave for italy in five days.

let me back up. 

slow food international:  a most excellent global presence supporting local sustainable solutions, fairly and cleanly produced food, and healthful food access in all the most important places.  it’s a global organization made up of increasingly more specific chapters by which to describe its members.  individuals form communities, communities form regions, regions form countries, and so on. 

example the me:  jared, a (young) farmer living in athens, georgia (not far from atlanta), raises pasture livestock in the georgia piedmont, in the southeast united states, has many different ways of identifying with the international slow food community

terra madre:  every two years this community comes together in torino, italy, to debate, educate, share, and teach one another about the world’s many invaluable food cultures.  almost half a year ago people from all around the world applied to become terra madre delegates and represent their homelands at this epic gathering.

it fills me with overwhelming joy to tell you that i will be attending terra madre as a usa delegate.  besides myself, farm255's head chef/four courseman matty, managing partner olivia, and my partner in tomfarmery sous farmer/chef francois, were also selected to represent.  delegates gather from around the world, from hundreds of countries, each offering their own local perspective.  the focus for ‘oh ten will be “cultural and linguistic diversities - in recognition of the need to defend minority ethnic groups and indigenous languages, and with an appreciation of the value of oral traditions and memory.” to learn more details about the conference please refer to the official description.

i leave wednesday night.  and to turn this dream into an even larger fantasy, she's meeting me on the tail end for a two week tour of italy. we're hitting rome, florence, and venice* on our way through a handful of (magical sounding) tuscan farms and inns.

i can feel the momentum of terra madre building and sucking me in.  it’s tentacles are billowing out of torino—expanding far and wide—and pulling it’s children in with its’ warm embrace. i see the salumi, and the pasta, and the vino della casa.  i can taste it.   i can see the fish mongers, the bakers, the scavengers, the musicians, the farmers, the pastry chefs, the students, and the butchers all around the world—i see them cracking that same smile i am, as they too are plucked away to italy…  

to find your local slow food chapter in the usa: press there

to learn about terra madre press here

and to learn about the salone del gusto (the tasting room) which is the edible half of terra madre, read here

and for athens folk who don’t know:  the four coursemen are delicious


*comment below for any restaurant recommendations in the three cities