Sugar Mountain Farm
|Sugar Mountain Farm|
|Pastured Pigs & Sheep|
|Municipality||Town of Orange|
|Elevation||726.0336 m (2,382 ft)|
Sugar Mountain Farm is a farm located in the mountains of rural West Topsham, Vermont, United States, run by Walter Jeffries and his family. Sugar Mountain Farm is the largest pastured pork farm in New England selling through stores and restaurants as well as direct to consumers. Jeffries has innovated a number of techniques in pasture raising of pigs with sustainable inputs, contrasting the high input corn/soy diet that has become popular in modern farming.
Some of the farm goals are sustainable, humane, family friendly agriculture on a human scale. Jeffries developed and put into practice many of his most innovative and significant agricultural methods for raising livestock year round in the northern climate without the high petroleum or grain inputs normally associated with pigs and chickens. Some of his novel techniques and approaches cover feeding pasture and hay to pigs, working on a small family accessible scale, direct-marketing of meats to consumers, local stores and chefs, simple chain and bucket hay baler handling for round bales, Managed intensive grazing adaptations and utilizing the labor of the animals for planting, harvest and manure distribution, making the farm a sustainable agricultural system rather than typical modern conventional confinement factory farming.
Many simple but effective low cost, low input tools and techniques have been invented by Jeffries at Sugar Mountain Farm which he shares through his writings in articles both in print and on the web. One example is the chain grabber for baler round bales. Jeffries has written many articles online and in print detailing the simple methods, ways and stories from their family farm. A major focus of Sugar Mountain Farms is educating other farmers and small livestock producers to help them work with low input methods of agriculture. Many of these articles are available for free on Jeffries blog. Sugar Mountain Farm has been featured in a number of articles in international, national, regional, state and local newspapers, Radio, TV and magazines as exemplary sustainable agriculture and was recently chosen as a finalist in the Gallo Family Gold Medel Awards.
Many techniques for raising pigs on pasture without the need for commercial grain supplements have been developed at the farm. In today's high input industrial farming, this is an important issue as it allows people to raise pigs with lower petroleum dependence and graze pigs much like sheep and cattle are grazed using managed rotational grazing techniques. Sugar Mountain Farm has also done a great deal of research through successive generations of pigs into raising boars without castration and demystifying boar taint. By raising pigs without the need for interventions like boar castration, no tail clipping, no teeth clipping and no farrowing or gestation crating. Sugar Mountain Farm has demonstrated that the welfare of the animals can be improved over the industry practices and better than traditional practices even on small farms.
Jeffries bases his farm principles of observations on animals' activities, traditional farming methods from past centuries and applying scientific process. Animals are moved frequently among paddocks to maximize the growth and harvest of pasture during the short warm period of the northern climate. Rotation and chickens are put in the original pasture to manage insects. The sheep and pigs graze the grass and leave enriching manure that poultry pick through while also eating the more tender grass. In the winter the animals shelter in open dens and sheds using deep bedding of hay to replace the pasture providing protection from the cold and winds. Sheep do major brush clearing, pigs do the work of tilling, chickens weed and remove insect pests, dogs do guardian and herding duty.
The majority of pork sold in large stores is raised in factory farms. Small pastured farms are an alternative to both intensive and outdoor piggeries: pastured pig farms where pigs are truly raised on pasture getting most or all of their diet from grazing and foraging as innovated at Sugar Mountain Farm in [Vermont]. When provided with appropriate field settings, brush and forage the pigs do not have problems with heat stress, sunburn, manure is naturally spread over larger areas returning the nutrients to the soil and morbidity levels are far lower providing for a higher survival rate as well as better profits for small farms.
Techniques of managed rotational grazing are used just like with sheep, cattle and horses to prevent overgrazing and erosion. Parasites and worms are controlled through the use of co-grazing species such as poultry as well as natural anthelmintics like garlic, whey, pepper, pine and pumpkin. In addition to being more sustainable and profitable, the pastured pig operation is more humane for both the pigs and the farmer.
Certification and publications
Sugar Mountain Farm is a Naturally Raised and NoWeirdStuff farm which provides certification similar to and beyond the USDA Organic standards for both humane animal treatment and production.
Jeffries was listed by Backwoods Home Magazine as one of the "Ten Real Inspirations" for 2009 for his work to protect traditional rights to farm fighting against the USDA's proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) led through his web site NoNAIS.org.
Jeffries writes a regular column "A Day In The Life" for Livin' The Vermont Way magazine about stories from Sugar Mountain Farm. Jeffries has also written articles for Mother Earth News and other publications.
Sugar Mountain Farm appears in the new book "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers" by Marissa Guggiana from Welcome Books.
The book 'The Complete Guide to Raising Pigs' by Carlotta Cooper published by Atlantic Publishing featured a case study of Sugar Mountain Farm.
Walter Jeffries is a co-author of the University of Vermont publication “Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm: Ways for Farms to Acquire Capital Within Communities”
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- "On-farm Very Small Scale USDA/State Inspected Butcher Shop Project at Sugar Mountain Farm". April 28, 2008.
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- Walter Jeffries. "Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm: Ways for Farms to Acquire Capital Within Communities". University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Retrieved April 7, 2012.