At the Board of Health meeting in Haverhill, MA, where the matter up for discussion was whether to ban piggeries in that town, I glanced around. Farmers were everywhere. There were kids from the ages of 8 (these are your future farmers, folks) all the way up to a well known cattle vet in his 90’s, who reminds me a lot of my Uncle Tasso. We all were there with our “I love Pigs” stickers complete with a picture of Springdell’s very own Patty Pig. The Massachusetts Farm Bureau made them up, and it was great to look around and see all the men and women in support of “piggeries” wear them.
Let me start off by saying this: I hate the word “piggery.” It is so misleading. It reminds me of an industrialized hog facility. And, technically, an operation like the one our friend, Chris, has in Haverhill, the small operation that has seemingly caused all the ruckus, falls under it. Yuck. It just sounds bad. I like pig farm.
For the first time in a while, it seemed that the farmers outnumbered the non-farmers. I looked around hoping that there were some consumers in the room. We all needed to stick together on this. A way of life is on the line, our food supply, our health. If pigs were banned, what would be next? Cows? Horses?
I took a seat front and center, right in front of a group of women that I had assumed were a group of farm supporters. I sat next to a young vegetable grower and right behind several Haverhill farmers. Good spot! I just sat there hoping that farmers and consumers would speak up.
The meeting was called to order, and, within minutes, one of the folks behind me stood up urging the BOH to ban “piggeries.” It was affecting her property value. She happened to live in a newer housing development, you know, one of those ones that developers build up around farms, expecting the farmer to hit the high road once completed. Several other folks spoke.
People for Pigs.
First to speak for the farmers was the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation president. He is a vegetable grower in Essex County. He is one of the many folks who have been a great influence on me. The Massachusetts Farm Bureau is the Voice of Agriculture. It is a grass roots organization made up of 6,000 family farmers and farm supporters here in the Commonwealth. Most of the people in the room last night were Farm Bureau members, all there to support a fellow farmer. While he was speaking, a woman behind me said to her friend, “I don’t need local farmers; I have Market Basket.” I was shocked! But I sat there chuckling to myself as the president happens to ship many of his vegetable to Market Basket.
After he spoke, it was like a domino effect. Farmers stood up, worried about losing their lifestyle; consumers stood up, worried about their food supply; kids stood up, worried about their future in agriculture. Folks mentioned how pigs are important to our ecosystem, sustainable agriculture, and our meat supply. We tried educating on how they are clean animals; we tried educatiing on what they do for the environment. We all stuck together.
There is another meeting scheduled for sometime in January, but, in the meantime, Chris, the farmer who sits in the middle of the new development was told to remove his pigs from his property. Until sometime in January, this farm family’s lifestyle, their income, and their passion are all on hold.
On the ride home, I thought to myself what it would be like to be in Chris’ shoes. What if my community ganged up against us? What would we do? Would we stand tall and fight back, or would we close the doors and walk away? Littleton is a unique town. We have plenty of farms to sustain us. We support the community, and the community supports us back. It is one of the many things that keep us going when it is bitter cold out and we are chipping ice out of buckets for our animals; when it is super hot out and we are picking beans; when we are moving snow around so folks can get in just to pick up a dozen eggs.
To all the consumers who shop here, support us, belong to our CSA, thank you for supporting your farmers. Thanks for working with us, and not against us. I can speak for every farmer I know when I say that! Every day that we work this land, whether it be decisions made in the office, the greenhouse, the barn, in a pasture, in the Farm Stand, in the field, on our tractor, or in the John Deere dealership, we do keep you, your family, the environment, our land, our animals, and our family in mind, making sure we deliver you a healthy, sustainable, tasty, food supply.
Jamie and the entire Springdell Farm Community
Our Own Patty Pig