by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
Travis White, Whitney Brydon, Aaron Snowman and Michelle Byram have created hog heaven on the Monroe Road in Winterport.
It’s possible to visit the farm and not see any pigs. They are all out somewhere on the farm’s more than 90 acres doing whatever it is pigs do when they are on their own — rooting for worms, munching green leafy plants, getting a drink down at the stream that runs through the property, wallowing in a favorite mud hole, scratching their backs against a tree trunk, enjoying a cool breeze.
White’s Farm, located on the White family acres on the Monroe Road in Winterport, has been in the family since the early 1800s. Travis White was born in the family farmhouse, owned by his grandmother, Charlotte White. For many years, the property was not exactly a working farm, though some of the acreage was leased to other farmers for raising corn and grazing cattle.
White, Brydon, Snowman and Bryam began raising pigs for food and as a product to sell to others, four years ago. The farm’s 150 pigs — Red Wattle, Large Black, Hampshire, Tamworth and Duroc breeds — have free range of the farm’s fields and woods.
“I think you appreciate food more when you raise it yourself, or know that it’s locally raised,” Byram said. “And since the pigs have been here [depositing their waste and rooting up the soil], I’ve seen a big change in the quality of the soil.”
Each pig has approximately a half-acre to call its own, so to speak, though none of the pigs are confined to that amount of space. They roam freely throughout the property. The only thing keeping them within bounds is the slender strand of an electric fencing wire placed approximately 18 inches off the ground.
Boars are kept in pastures separate from the sows until breeding time arrives. Sows and piglets live in family groups.
“They each have their own mud holes,” Byram said.
“They aren’t fed corn or grain,” Snowman explained. “They eat worms, bugs, tubers, legumes, clover, whatever they root up on the land. We feed them squash and pumpkins we grow here on the farm.” Bringing a pig to maturity, ready for slaughter, he said, takes twice as long as commercially grown animals. It also requires quite a bit of legwork. Snowman estimated that it takes 10-20 hours per week, weed whacker in hand, to maintain the electric fencing. No chemical or pesticides are used on the farm.
In winter, the pigs live in shelters, with piles of hay for warmth, that White and Snowman constructed from trees cut on farm property, and milled on a portable sawmill set up in one of the farm buildings.
“We feed them potatoes in the winter,” Brydon said.
The pigs in the farm’s breed stock pool, which don’t end up on the dinner table, all have names. The boars are Tyrone and Beef. Names of the sows include Red, Libby, Emma, Priscilla, Sweet Pea, Betty White, Flakey, Fern, Stella and Cinnamon.
The four partners in farming, firm believers in locally-sourced food, started with a few pigs, learned more about raising the animals from other farmers, read up on things, added new breeding stock and gradually increased the number of pigs on the farm.
Stuart White, Travis White’s father, manages the farm and puts in many hours each week doing the chores farming requires. White recently opened White’s Farm Mercantile in Stockton Springs where he sells White’s farms pork products, his own wood art and other food products sourced within 15 miles of Winterport.
While discussing the growing interest in locally sourced food, Snowman remarked, laughing, “I don’t want to eat something that is more world traveled than I am.” On a more serious note, he said, “We’re ahead of things — there is no competition among farmers — what we need is a lot more small farmers.”
White, Brydon, Byram and Snow have other things in common besides raising pigs. They are founding members of the Hampden Farmers Market which takes place 2-6 p.m. Fridays, May through November, in the parking lot at the Hampden Town Office on Western Avenue. They also are graduates of Hampden Academy — White in 1994, Snowman in 1993, Brydon in 2002 and Byram in 1998.
“I wish I had had an earlier introduction to farming — in school, as a teenager,” Byram said. “It would have saved me so much time.”
Brydon said she worked as a medical secretary before deciding to take up farming full time. “It’s the way life should be. I can’t imagine not doing this. It’s nice to know you’ll always have food, and to know what you’re eating.”
“I wish I could go out with three thousand pork chops and hand them out for free. People would taste the difference and would want more,” Snowman said.
For information about White’s Farm pork products and how to order, go to White’s Farm.org or visit the farm’s booth at the Hampden Farmers Market; the Bucksport Bay Farmers Market, 2:30-5 p.m. Thursdays, next to the post office on Main Street; and the Blue Hill Farmers Market, 3-5 p.m. Saturdays at the Blue Hill Fairgrounds.