Have you ever watched pigs eat breakfast?

I don’t watch television.  For one thing, it takes up too much time.  For another I don’t like being pummeled with images and sounds in such rapid succession, especially when so many of them are aimed at making me buy things I don’t want or need.  But the main reason I don’t watch T.V. is because I’m a farmer.  I have far better entertainment.  Take pigs for instance.

Piglets eating and sleeping.  Jealous!

Piglets eating and sleeping. Jealous!

If you’ve never seen pigs eat you’re really missing one of the finer pleasures in life.  This is not hyperbole.  Watching pigs do anything is one of the most amazingly rejuvenating experiences you can have.  I’ve actually considered opening some sort of therapy business in which people from large cities pay me large sums of money to come to the farm and do nothing but sit and watch the animals.  The only reason I haven’t is because I think it might ruin my experience watching the animals!

The happy couple.

The happy couple.

Our sow, her name is Scarlet, is about to have a litter.  That means I’m spending a lot of time with the pigs these days.  Currently, I visit Scarlet and Indy (he’s our pure bred Large Black boar) five or six times a day to check on her, make sure she’s doing alright, ensure there is enough dry nesting material in their shelter and make sure they haven’t tipped over their water trough (every five minutes in the summer).  Spending this much time with the pigs allows me to see things that I’m sometimes too busy to notice.

Just this morning I had a rare moment of idle (usually I move in fifth gear at all times) and I watched the pigs eat their breakfast.  Scarlet is the most amazing eater I’ve ever seen.  She uses her fore hooves to hold things in place so she can tear into them with her powerful jaws or snout.  This morning I saw her tipping her feed bowl on its side and balancing it there because she’s figured out that if she does this it allows the last remnants of her grain slop to collect together where it’s easier to slurp.  That’s brilliant!  And it’s brilliant to watch.

And while I watched her do this sometimes laughing at the humor of it, sometimes marveling at her intellect, it occurred to me (not for the first time) how silly our modern ‘agriculture‘ is.

At our farm the pigs till and fertilize the next year's garden plot.  The FSMA would seek to do away with this.

At Parker Family Farm some pigs are in the pasture and some are working in the woods.

How on Earth did we ever come to a point at which we (as a society) are happy to lock these wonderfully complex, entertaining creatures in concrete and metal cages by the millions?  Animals are meant to be outside.  (And so are we!)  When they are outside they are happy, healthy and content.  And I can tell you from first hand experience, so are we.  If you have a farmer that you and your family can call your own, see if he or she will let you visit the farm and simply sit watching the animals.  Try to go at feeding time.  You’ll only need about fifteen minutes to feel the effects.  You’ll get more out of it than any therapy session and it’s a lot less expensive.  And if you don’t have a farmer you can count on, um…what are you waiting for?  Local food.  Eat well – be well.

Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.