The idea for a Village Pig Club came from an article I read in a pig keeping magazine. A group in Warwickshire had rented some land, bought some rare breed pigs and just had a go. They’ve been doing it every six months or so for the last three years. What a great idea, get together with friends and neighbours, share the tasks, learn about keeping pigs and produce your very own home-grown pork at the end. We had some spare land and an unoccupied arc so I thought why not see if anyone around here would be interested. I put a piece in our parish magazine, put up a couple of posters and booked the village hall.
In the end about a dozen people turned up and I explained how the idea had emerged and how it could operate in our village. I had worked hard on my handouts (lots of crayons), apportioning up a picture of a pig into how the cost was made up and roughly what you would get out of it. Butchers, abattoirs and charcuterie were discussed and much appreciative murmurings were heard. Most people thought half a pig would be enough, a couple went for ‘the whole hog’ (sorry !). We settled on a figure of £91 for half a pig which included all costs except for the butchery, which costs roughly £25 depending on what you have.
The group came to our smallholding one Sunday and set the paddock up, strimming down the grass around the edge, putting up electric wire fencing and moving the arc and water into position. We didn’t have any of our own Saddleback piglets of the right age so we bought some Gloucester Old Spots from a friend of ours. Everyone came round that first evening to ooh and ah at their little pigs and get last minute instructions on feeding.
The practicalities worked well. There were nine families involved so every evening and weekend morning feeds were covered. We covered the remaining weekday mornings. A white board in the feed shed helped record that the feed had been given and any messages that needed to be passed on.
We had the pigs from May to October and during that time they had a lot of attention and many visits from friends of the pig club. There was some sadness at the end because people had enjoyed the routine and spending time with the pigs but no sentimentality. All members were in it for the pork.
The group decided to use a local butcher, Cattermoles discussing individual requirement directly with them and the feedback I’ve had is all excellent. The pork has been the best many of them has tasted.
This is an article written about the pig club that appeared in Let's Talk Magazine in November 2011.
There was a time when most people grew their own vegetables and reared their own pigs and whilst that may not be feasible today perhaps these community projects are a way of doing it. Sharing the tasks, getting to know your neighbours and having a lot of fun along the way, why not have a go yourself !
Here are a couple more links to local initiatives.