A bit about me.
I am 17. I started a pig farm as I love farming and I love pigs but not the way pigs are factory farmed. I didn’t get on at school as I have dyslexia and discalculia so college was out for me. With the support of my elders I used a small inheritance to buy stock and borrowed some woodland and pasture to create “The Wilder Ones”.
My ethos is simple. I raise two of our rarest breeds, the British Lop and the Large Black. They are beautiful heritage animals who are native to Devon. Farming kindly means my pigs live freely in social groups and create their own landscapes that meet their needs. I dont use any chemicals on the land and the pigs aren’t fed any growth hormones, appetite enhancers or GMO products; its about respect for them as no pig is ever just the number on its ear tag.
The way I farm is the absolute antithesis of the intensive factory system from start to finish. I have happy and healthy pigs who squeal and come running when they see me. I rarely lose piglets at farrowing and the sows self wean their own youngsters. There are no crates and no slatted floors (but I do have a luxury maternity wing in a cob barn for any of my ladies who want a little comfort during their pregnancy)
Instead we have linnets and robins nesting, wrens and sparrows in the hedgerow, swallows and house martins rearing their young in the barn. There are frogs, newts and toads by the stream and more bees on the meadow flowers than I can count. The bats come out at sundown and the Tawny owls fly like ghosts in the woods at night. Its a complete ecosystem the pigs are part of and I intend to continue farming sustainably and wildly working with nature not against it.
Happy healthy pigs.
All of my pigs are slow grown as that is what works for them. Its why though these breeds became rare. The factory system wants pigs that grow quickly on minimal feed at a low cost. This Is not a natural fit with our heritage pigs who need time and space to grow, something they have lots of here with me.
Whilst I’d like to keep all of them, I keep those who meet breed standard to grow my closed herd. This means I dont need to buy any pigs in from other farmers and so lessens our risk of disease coming onto the farm and makes us more resistant in the future.
Working this way also aids the breeds conservation which is really important me. By connecting with consumers and direct selling the pork the market will grow, more of the breeds will be needed and their risk of extinction will drop so I’m hoping these amazing pigs will be around a lot longer than me.
Of course I cant keep everyone. When the time though comes I work with a slaughter house that continues to respect my animals on their final journey in a stress free environment.
My meat boxes
I then sell meat boxes around the West Country to homes, chefs and restaurants who appreciate delicious pharma free pork that has been ethically reared. I‘ve also used Lockdown to learn to make nitrate free bacon and charcuterie, so artisan curing and smoking can be added to my product lists for the future.
Hows it been going?
It’s been going well. There is loads of interest in how I’m farming and my pigs. I started with just 5 in September 2019, I now have 41 with another 30 piglets being born over the summer.
No one saw COVID 19 coming and it has slapped me hard. This is a young business. I don’t have cash reserves or investment to fall back on or future orders to carry me through. I have sold all of the meat boxes I could sell at the start of lockdown. I took pigs earlier than I wanted to to try and tide us over. As my mum is in a vulnerable group deliveries had to stop. There was no way I was bringing this virus home to her or my family, plus customers, like everyone, are isolating and scared. I‘ve spent all of the money I had saved for a UTV on the feed bill to date and now I am broke. I can’t even repair my trailer to get it back on the road.
Being a young entrepreneur and Covid 19 - what it means for me.
As I’m only 17 lots of people assume this is just a hobby for me and I must be doing something else. I’m not. This is it for me. It’s my business, my dream and I’m not losing it to a virus this early on so I hope you will support me in trying to save it.
I’ve discovered its really hard being a young entrepreneur. Everyone wants you to do it but the support just isn’t there before you are 18. Being 17 means I can’t access any of the COVID grants, I can’t get a bank loan or an overdraft. I can’t even get a feed account or a business bank account. I can’t claim benefits as I still live at home, but I dont think Universal Credit would believe I have 42 hungry mouths to feed anyway. I cant ask my parents for any more help and I have nothing left to sell. I wrote to my MP and the Chancellor - both suggested farming charities, but again I’m not 18 and I haven’t been farming for 10 years or more.
So I’d be really grateful if you could help to “Save My Bacon”. Pigs aren’t like other livestock who can be put out to grass when times are tough. They have to have a feed ration twice a day. As there are no pig auctions right now I cant sell any and the piglets aren’t yet old enough to be sold to private homes as an alternative to rearing them here.
The money I raise.
I am asking for people to pledge money in advance for meat that will be reared over the summer, but of course, donations are gratefully received outside of this.
To raise one rare breed piglet from birth to 7 months costs me £152 Per piglet. As my pigs are raised in the best way possible to meet their needs and to create the best pork, I only feed them good quality food that doesn’t contain any plastic (confectionary waste is often added to pig feed, most of the time they don’t take the wrappers off, chemicals and plastic go into their bodies, which isn’t good for them and certainly not for us.) I don’t feed any GMO crops and they only have feed that doesn’t contain appetite enhancers or growth hormones. It is more expensive feed than normal pig feed but, it is better for everyone and the environment; we don’t need chemicals in the soil either.
With 25 piglets to raise that’s £3800.
Alongside I have 3 pregnant rare breed sows due to farrow over the summer, 4 sows about to go to the boar and 2 sows who have just been weaned as well as 10 pigs who are 2 months away from their final journey. If lockdown doesn’t finish until October thats another £2500.
This is a really new business starting in 2019. I have no access to other finance sources and I’ve been reinvesting all the money I’ve made back into buying stock and kit. I do have experienced mentors behind me but help and advice is only good when I have money to pay for suggestions made. I’ve now been offered two additional plots of woodland away from home. I’ve been saving for additional kit and a UTV to get me about so I can grow the business to meet demand and conserve more rare breed pigs. All of the money I had put by has now paid the Lockdown feed and vet bills.
So any money I raise after the feed costs will go towards making these extra pieces of woodland happen and keeping me mobile to do it. I was due to take my driving test the week lockdown happened and can’t do it now until it’s finished.
Alongside I really want to show everyone that young people can make a viable business if they are just given the chance and the support. I’ve already been trolled by people for this crowdfunder and it’s just not good.
As for the pigs, The Wilder Ones and projects like this, are their chance to prove how awesome our heritage breeds are and that factory farming just isn’t the way.