Please check out this beautiful article as featured in the Spring 2014 edition of Edible Reno-Tahoe. We would like to especially thank Barbara Twitchell for such beautiful writing and Amanda Burden of Edible Reno-Tahoe for thinking of us when putting together this Spring issue!
THIS LITTLE PIGGY
Young farmers bring prime organic pork to local consumers.
WRITTEN BY BARBARA TWITCHELL
PHOTOS BY CANDICE NYANDO
Ursula races around the corner of the barn, followed closely by Barley Ann, who is merrily sprinting to catch up. With agility as surprising as their speed, they circle the yard, weaving their way around people, pets, and farm animals. It's not what one would expect 400-pound sows to be doing on a sunny afternoon.
Rebekah May just laughs as they pass.
"They love to be out," she says, stating the obvious.
What's also obvious is that these are just about the happiest pigs you ever will meet. Rebekah and Josh May, owners and operators of Sunny Day Organic Farms in Stagecoach, Nev., wouldn't have it any other way.
Going Whole Hog
The native Nevadans married at 22 and bought their small farm only a few months later. Neither had any farming experience, but they didn't let that stop them. They had a clear vision of the way they wanted to live — eating wholesome food, including meat that was humanely and sustainably grown. They knew the best way to do that was to grow their own.
Four years ago, a friend suggested they try raising pigs. Not having found a good source for locally grown, organic* pork, they decided to do just that. When the butcher who processed their first pigs remarked they were the best he had seen in years, the couple knew they were onto a good thing.
Word soon spread about the succulent, flavorful meat they had produced. The following year they had numerous requests from family and friends to buy their pork. And so began their foray into the hog business.
Bringing Home the Bacon
The Mays raise about 10 hogs a year, including heritage or rare breeds, which they are hoping to preserve. All of their pigs are fed a totally organic, vegetarian diet and are carefully tended in a humane, stress-free environment without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.
A few of these pigs are for the family's consumption, but most are sold to people who appreciate prime pork raised in a healthy environment with love and care. The Mays sell shares of their pigs through their CSA and also market their pork to a number of local restaurants and through Great Basin Community Food Co-op's Distributors of Regional Organic Produce & Products (DROPP) program.
Happily, the Mays' farm and family have grown to include three children, dogs and cats galore, and roughly 40 farm animals, including a steer, goats, chickens, turkeys, and, of course, pigs. They also grow organic produce. It's a dream come true — just as they envisioned years before. But it's the pigs that are bringing home the bacon. Selling their organic pork has become the financial key to keeping that dream alive.
Paying it Forward
The couple has taken steps to help others adopt a healthier relationship with food. As a certified community health advocate, Rebekah offers nutritional guidance through the food banks and social service agencies in their community. She and Josh also are working to establish Philanthropic Pharmers, a nonprofit that will facilitate mentoring and educational opportunities for those who wish to learn how to grow their own food.
"We're so grateful to be able to live this way, sustain ourselves and grow our own food," Rebekah says. "Our favorite part of farming is the amount of time it allows us to spend together as a family and the personal connection we can have with our food."
Almost on cue, the sows sidle up to Rebekah and nuzzle her outstretched hand, seeking a few pats on their ample bodies. She willingly complies.
Enjoying that personal connection apparently goes both ways. Just ask Ursula and Barley Ann.
Freelance Reno writer Barbara Twitchell was delightfully surprised at how docile, sociable, and amazingly fast these gigantic hogs can be. Who knew? She also can personally attest that they make some mighty tasty pork chops and bacon!
* National Organic Program standards exempt low-volume organic farms (less than $5,000 gross profit from organic products) from applying for formal certification. However, the farmers must still adhere to the same strict organic standards set by the NOP.
Sunny Day Organic Farms pork can be purchased at the following locations:
Sunny Day Organic Farms
5315 Miowk Drive, Stagecoach, Nev.
Great Basin Community Food Co-op DROPP (Distributors of Regional Organic Produce & Products)
240 Court St., Reno
It's served at the following restaurants:
4th St. Bistro
3065 W. Fourth St., Reno
Café at Adele's
1112 N. Carson St., Carson City
50 N. Sierra St. (at the Palladio), Reno