A couple of months ago we had the work and pleasure of butchering two pigs here on our farm. The work part of butchering may be evident; the emotional and physical reality of taking two living breathing 200 pound pigs and doing all of the killing, cleaning, cutting and wrapping. The pleasure aspect (especially for those who have not harvested their own meat) may seem a bit harder to comprehend.
When I really allow myself to ponder why I love farming it is as simple (and as complicated) as being part of daily transformation. Every season, every day, every moment a farm is really about the transformational exchange of energy that is happening between the farmer, the weather, the land, the plants, the animals, etc. When we harvested our pigs I took great pleasure in knowing that my hand had been part of the process from start to finish. I had cared for these pigs and their flesh would become delicious and nutrient dense food for the people in our community. Our pigs would not be taken to a warehouse to be handled by unfamiliar hands, to end their lives in an unfamiliar place. Instead their death and our participation in it would become a beautiful celebration of what it means to eat close to home.
And we truly did celebrate. Each person that had bought a share of meat from us was invited to come to the farm to participate in the butchering process. Each person could experience where their meat was coming from and how a carcass becomes all of the familiar cuts that we see in the butcher case. This also allowed us to share the work, which is extensive when you're talking about almost 300 pounds of meat. So much of what happens on the farm is solitary and seems sometimes to happen in isolation from the end product. Our customers are not with us when we sow, weed and harvest but I think that farming is much more enjoyable when there is an element of community that is allowed to enter into the equation. When a hard day's work is shared by many hands and hopefully ends in a delicious meal.
What we eat is more than the nutritional or caloric content of our food. When we are allowed to experience our food by fully participating in its procurement I believe that this nurtures us in a way that is more deeply satisfying than anything that can be bought on a shelf.
Many thanks to Kelly Shelton for his sharp knives and butchering expertise, Brandon from Farmstead Meatsmith for sharing his knowledge about farm-scale butchery, and all the folks who came out to participate in our first on farm pig harvest.