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Jan/Feb 2011 – Yes, we have no piglets for sale. An open letter to our farm customers

Dear Customers,
I am writing to tell you that Stillmeadow Farm will no longer sell piglets.
The decision gives us no pleasure, because selling piglets is one of the great satisfactions of farming. I always enjoy the sight of chubby, weaned little piglets going off with a new-to-the country customer, tucked in an open cardboard box in the back of a 2010 Volvo. I think of all the marvelous learning ahead! I think of the smell!
But aggregate experience suggests piglets are not good for our customers, and the customers are not good for the piglets.
Consider:
? The customer who, six months to the day after buying three piglets called to ask if we had a “bonsai” breed. It turns out he had over-literally taken our instructions to feed a pound a day and never increased the amount.
? The family that kept our piglets in a marshy area behind their house. Fine during the summer, this area turned to a swamp in the fall. One day, after a period of heavy rain, the pigs simply disappeared. Sunk? Vanished into the woods for a life of feral pleasures? No one knows but I’m not happy for the pigs and the customer isn’t happy for the lost investment.
? Two locals who raised our pigs to a great size and took them to market in a van. Enroute there was a porcine insurrection. While one pig expressed a strong interest in accessing the driver’s seat, the other pig burst his big head through every window in the back. As the former operator of the local slaughterhouse told me, people don’t understand that “a boat trailer and two barbeque racks do not make a pig transporter.”
Finally, I have to mention what happened to one of our best customers, and the wedding, the forest fire, and the pig’s head on the couch.
Reg, then common-law father of four, buys at least three sides of pork from us a year, always pays cash. Last summer Reg had a notion to raise a pig for his much-anticipated wedding. He feeds it well, has it slaughtered, and arranges to have it spit-roasted at the wedding by a contract pig barbecuer. Contract pig barbecuer turns out to be a better drinker than cook, roasting pig catches fire, sets a stand of overhanging cedars ablaze. While the cook is seeking a hose (more beer?) the flaming and scorched pig falls off its stand and rolls, aflame, in the dirt. With the pig seemingly charred beyond eating, the wedding guests simultaneously horrified and amused, the contractor says he can salvage it by cutting it up and burying it underground with embers. It will be cooked Hawaiian style, sort of.
Do I need to say more?
There is more.
In the course of cutting the pig up, the contractor gives the severed and burned head to some kids who, after booting it around in a version of post-Apocalypse soccer, eventually leave it in the house. The bride finds the head, that night, on her beige couch.
Now that’s bad publicity.
My concern is usually for the treatment of the animal. In this case, at least, I don’t think that was an issue. But damage to the farm, in the form of a lost customer, plus reputation associated with gossip, is inestimable.
Our farm can handle drought, lack of labour, CFIA regulations etc, but we can not handle the kind of negative publicity that comes from selling piglets.