Edward Marshall and Crystal Cook raise certified Animal Welfare Approved pigs at Pockerchicory Farms, located in Union Grove, North Carolina. The 40-acre farm is located on the rolling foothills of the southeastern edge of Appalachia, and consists of a largely wooded area and small pastures. Their pigs, a “farmers cross” of Tamworth, Duroc, and Berkshire breeds, are referred to by Edward as “the best employees”, since they work to restore and regenerate the land. Raised outdoors, on pasture, range, or in forest, where they are free to root and forage as pigs do naturally, the pigs at Pockerchicory Farms work to plow the land, plant seeds and then graze on the very crops they planted.
As well as their commitment to high welfare farming, the couple do all they can to make the farm as sustainable as possible, and try to avoid buying or binging in off-farm inputs, for example. Edward and Crystal describe their approach of low fossil fuel farming as “permaculture principled”, which means they are committed to following a code of ethics with respect to their farm and all of its inhabitants, their land, and their business practices. “Our job is to be good stewards for the land and to build good soil,” says Edward. Pockerchicory Farms uses management intensive grazing to rotationally graze their hogs in hardwood forests and pastures. The two-week finishing process includes 6—12-hour rotations on specially sown mixed forage pastures of ryegrass, clover, oats, and dwarf Essex rape. “I wouldn’t raise animals if I had to have them in a house. The pigs want to go graze and they like having access to new pasture. We are very committed to having the animals outside and moving them often,” says Edward. This outdoor, high-welfare management approach is a fundamental component of AWA certification and is known to have environmental, nutritional, and culinary benefits.
Education is also a large part of Pockerchicory Farms, and the drive to continually learn and educate motivated Edward and Crystal to pursue AWA certification. They plan to use their AWA certification to help educate consumers. They’ve also started the We Are All Farmers Permaculture Institute, a non-profit committed to increasing food and energy responsibility and resilience in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of the U.S. through permaculture. We Are All Farmers offers a low-cost permaculture design certificate course (taught by Edward, Crystal, and 9 other instructors) on the techniques of permaculture land and animals systems practice within the context of community.
Looking to the future, the couple would like to introduce more animal species in the farm. “We’re looking at how we can integrate different livestock, so they will fit in our system and work in harmony,” Edward explains. “We also want to encourage more wildlife on the farm, as well as regenerate the land.” Eventually, they hope to raise only purebred Tamworth hogs, since this breed is known for strong foraging instincts. The pigs will remain a key element of their vision to restore the land and build up the forests, which they believe can be done successfully with the help of their livestock.
Pockerchicory Farms began selling at farmers’ markets to build their customer base, which has grown significantly by word of mouth. Pockerchicory Farms pork is currently being sold by share through The Bread Riot, at the Wilkesboro Farmers Market, and direct from the farm. Edward and Crystal would like to continue to direct sell their products, and hope to have a small on farm store in 2014.
To learn more about Pockerchicory Farms—and to purchase their pastured pork—visit www.pockerchicoryfarms.com. Contact Edward and Crystal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (704) 592-2557. For up-to-date information on farm activities, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PockerchicoryFarms.