The pigs on the Snavely family’s farm, Curly Tail Organic Farm, in Fredericktown, Ohio are not your average pigs. Ed Snavely’s pigs are not confined to small metal crates in which they can barely move, lacking access to sunlight and fresh air, like many factory farm grown animals.
Ed’s pigs are raised outside, where they can socialize and root in normal pig fashion. His 12 sows give birth in huts where they can build nests, creating a safe and welcoming environment for their piglets. They eat a high-fiber diet, a ration that Ed makes himself from the grains grown on his farm. As Ed explains, his pigs take longer to “finish” than the average factory farm pig – about 7 months opposed to a factory farm finishing time of about 4 1/2 to 5 months. But the success of Curly Tail Organic Farm is testimony to the fact that the work it takes to raise happy, healthy, organic pigs is worth it.
Ed Snavely grew up on an Ohio farm. While he enjoyed farming, Ed had no intentions of making a career as a farmer. That changed when Ed’s dad suffered a stroke and Ed had the responsibility of harvesting the crops that fall. When his dad recovered, Ed continued as his dad’s farming partner. Together, they farmed about 600 acres for a few years. Back then, in the early 80s, a neighbor approached them about decreasing their chemical use; Ed was excited about the prospect of decreasing their chemical use, but his dad was reluctant to change his methods. The Snavelys continued adding chemical inputs to their farm until after Ed’s dad’s death in 1983. But in 1986, Ed and his wife, Beth, decided they had to do something differently. They knew that chemicals were endangering their health and destroying their soil structure. As Ed explains, he’d go out to the fields to spray and he’d come back feeling physically ill. Over time, Ed has come to believe that “the majority of our nation’s health problems are caused by the chemicals being applied to our food.”
The folks at Curly Tail Organic Farm are committed to being responsible stewards of the earth and producing healthful, chemical-free food. In addition, they are helping to preserve the biodiversity that is threatened by factory farm practices which favor plant and animal species that fit the rigid production specifications for a highly uniform, industrial system of agriculture. Ed raises Large Blacks and Tamworths, breeds of hog that are listed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) as “critical” and “rare,” respectively. With the efforts of farmers like Ed, the earth’s biodiversity is preserved for future generations and our consumer choice is protected. Ed believes the key to a successful family farm operation lies in adding value to the product.
“I truly believe that the family farmer can’t make it anymore as a commodity farmer. You have to try a whole new approach. It used to be you could go to your local grain elevator and your local stockyard and get a fair price. You can’t do that anymore; the same companies that own the huge corporate farms own the grain elevator and the stockyard. Sometimes you can’t even cover your cost of production,” Ed explains.
That’s why Ed does thing differently, including marketing his pork directly to local restaurants, to local people through on-farm sales, and at two local farmers markets. Learning how to market his pork was an experience of trial and error. But the benefits of doing so have been substantial, for the Snavelys and their customers. Ed, Beth, and their son Brandon (who has just graduated high school and plans on farming full-time with his dad) have a farm of happy hogs, and their customers have access to delicious, organic pork, produced locally and sustainably.