MOUNT IDA – Brian Rogers, owner of Ouachita Mountain Valley Farm and Berkshire Prime Pork of Mount Ida, spoke to the Montgomery Master Gardeners about the benefits hogs can provide gardens.
Rogers, his wife Tracy Rogers, and their four children live on their farm which sits just off Highway 270 east of Joplin. He stated that although they do not qualify as an organic farm he is proud to say that they are a non-GMO farm.
He began by talking about their gardens. Their soils are micronutrient supplemented with kelp and volcanic ash and all their beds are raised and broad-forked. They don’t use any chemicals in their gardens with weeds and bugs dealt with by the use of hoes, cover tarps, and when things get bad, a propane flamer.
He explained that the flamer is used when a crop has been infested. The only thing to do at this point is to burn it to the ground and start over.
This is where pigs and humans can help each other. Besides the meat hogs provide for the dinner table, foraging in the garden cleans out weeds and bugs that can be hazardous to a crop. Rogers stated that small pigs are best, but they can be left in the garden until they get around 200-250 pounds.
Pigs eat several harmful pests like grubs, wireworms, cutworms, army worms, moles, and black widows. They also keep weeds down in the garden and along the forest margin where many pests live. They love poison ivy and kudzu among other weeds.
He added if you want to plant something specifically for your pigs then herbs are a good place to start. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, comfry and dandilion. Plants to avoid include: pigweed, castor beans, morning glory seeds, brassica plants roots and seeds, and mustard.
Rogers also warned against allowing your pigs in the garden during rainy season.
He also discussed using pigs as a way to generate compost and fertilizer. He described how they create compost piles by expanding the pig pens.
His farm, Berkshire Prime Pork of Mount Ida, currently houses 14 sows which produce around 280-300 piglets a year. While some may choose a diet without meat, an added benefit to raising pigs alongside your garden is the meat it produces.
Rogers was adamant about the amount of care that he and his family provides for their animals. They do not use antibiotics in the piglets they are raising for meat production. However, he did state that they do use antibiotics when needed for their breeding animals.
He also promoted the use of a veterinarian. He described some of the injuries his pigs have suffered, many of which might have died if not for professional care. There are also illnesses that may require care or the pig will die.
He shared that part of his motivation to raise pigs is that when he takes a pig to be processed he knows it lived a better life than one that makes its way to a supermarket.
“Our pigs have a wonderful life until that one bad day.” He stated.
Rogers stated that they do sell their pork which is processed locally. The Rogers family raises Berkshire pigs, which Brian stated is a hearty pig that produces quality meat.
The Rogers family plans to return in the fall to talk more about their garden and the products they produce in it.
For more information regarding Berkshire Prime Pork of Mount Ida visit them at berkshireprimepork.com. You can also find them on Facebook.
The Montgomery County Master Gardeners meet each month on the first Wednesday in the Annex Building.