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As an amateur chef, Matthew Lawrence quickly learned that the quality of meat used in a meal has a huge impact on the final product. As he catered local weddings and competitions, he struggled to find local and sustainable meat from farmers nearby. To improve his craft and provide a better alternative to grocery store meats, Matthew and his wife Jesie decided to create what they were searching for by starting their own sustainable multi-species pasture farm in Sylacauga, Alabama. After all, as Matthew says, nature is where all the activity happens.
If starting their own farm wasn’t ambitious enough, Matthew and Jesie also built their own USDA inspected processing facility to service both their farm and other local farmers. Providing a local processor for the community results in better meats for everyone.
What began as a way for Randy Riviere to pay for his son’s baseball habit and college tuition has become Wilderness Farms, an environmentally conscious farm raising purebred Berkshire hogs in the crisp mountain air of Enumclaw, Washington. Not only that, Randy’s pork is the favorite for Renee Erickson’s Seattle-based restaurants, Bar Melusine and Walrus and Carpenter.
“The meat to fat ratio is so beautiful on Randy’s pork. It tastes really clean,” says Bobby Palmquist, executive chef at the Walrus and Carpenter. “I would eat Randy’s pork raw in a heartbeat.”
Nestled just west of the Cascade Mountains in the cold Northwest, Randy and his family needed a tough breed that thrives on the mountain woodlands. Heritage breed Berkshire hogs are hardy in tough environments with good dispositions and high quality meat, so they began to raise a Berkshire herd.
Randy’s previous life as a wildlife biologist allowed him to raise hogs that maximize the environmental potential of the land while preserving the space for migratory wildlife. It’s a full family operation, with his son Zack doing the everyday feeding while working on his degree at the University of Washington. Randy’s wife, Dawn, also works on the farm, often managing the land while covered head to toe with mud.
Because Randy and his family believe in respecting their animals’ natural instincts and minimizing stress, the hogs themselves enjoy rooting through the land in social groups that often consist of their littermates.
In addition to grazing on Timothy, Orchard Grass, Red Clover, BF trefoil, vetch, and other grasses, these hogs enjoy a locally raised, hand-mixed barley grain year-round with absolutely no hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. Randy even mixes his feed by hand using a traditional recipe from the 1940s.