Until two weeks ago, I had never visited a full blown hog farm. I’d seen a few pigs at smaller farms, and had friends with pot-bellied pigs, but hogs, hogs, everywhere was certainly new to me.
We started carrying Geisert breakfast sausages, links, brats and bacon in March. Todd Geisert, the owner of the farm, told us about his family hog farm, the open fields where he raises his hogs, the sustainable methods he uses and a little about the history. So, on a beautiful May day I set out with my son in tow to see for myself.
The farm, located in Washington, MO, is easy to find. you turn And the old timey produce stand in front is a clue that you are not in a big city. There is also a small upright cooler to the side of the stand stocked with Todd’s brats, sausages, pork burgers and even ham sausage. All the products are for sale on an honor system. This is true even at the height of produce season when the stand is overflowing with tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Todd says it’s worked out great and so far he’s never had a problem.
The farm has been in the family since 1878. His mom and dad live across the street from the farm in a house built in the late 1800’s. You wouldn’t know it from the outside because his folks have recently add an addition and done a lot of work to this beautiful home that overlooks the Missouri river. I was able to meet his mom and she quickly charmed my three-year old with some crackers, apple juice, and a friendly grandma demeanor.
Todd drove us around the farm in an open aired jeep. He has another farm nearby where he keeps more hogs–in total he said he keeps about 1000 hogs. This is large for a farm like his and proof that you can raise a large group of animals without confinement.
We picked a great day to visit the farm because one of the hogs had given birth to some piglets less than 24-hours before we arrived and another hog was laboring and had just delivered two piglets. She went on to have five more that night and Todd texted me a photo of all the baby pigs nursing. I would have loved to see the sow giving birth, but alas it was not to be. Instead we settled happily for holding one of the baby piglets. My son was bit spooked by that little pig and the adult hogs are pretty imposing so he seemed content to stay in the jeep for that part. (see photos below)
Watching the pigs graze on the hillside and wallow in the mud I was reminded of Joel Salatin’s quote in Food, Inc about the “pigness of the pig.” It seems Todd’s hogs get to express that everyday.
Overview of Todd’s Farming methods, pig facts, etc…
1. He rotates his hogs around the property and in the winter they fertilize his crop fields
2. Todd grows his own feed for his hogs reserving some of his farmland for corn
3. There is a beautiful stream running at the bottom of his property that his animals have access to
4. During the heat of summer the hogs are moved to a cedar grove where there is plenty of shade
5. With the exception of hogs that are kept for breeding, the life of each hog is about six months.