Editor’s Note: The pig shown on our current cover, eating nuts out of chef Marc Meyer’s hand, was photographed for our story “Free Range Weekend,” which follows chefs from Cookshop, Hundred Acres and Five Points on a road trip to visit Virginia farmer Bev Eggleston, who works work about forty small family farms who raise animals bound first for his custom-built, multi-species slaughterhouse, and then for his bevy of city chef clients, including some of the best in New York.
Eggleston works with about forty small family farmers including Adam Musick, whose gorgeous farm the chefs visited in the story—and that happy cover-girl sow is his. Eggleston works with about forty small family farmers including Adam Musick, whose gorgeous farm the chefs visited in the story—that happy cover-girl sow is his. Here Winnie Yang, who went on the trip and penned the piece, tells us all about Musick and his farm:
The 30-something Musick has long, shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, and easy smile; it’s easy to imagine him in his former role as frontman for the rock-and-roll outfit Southern Bitch. But he and his wife Wendy tired of touring and left the band and Athens, Georgia, to take over his maternal grandparents’ old cattle farm, and for a little more than a year they’ve been part of EcoFriendly’s network. Musick still plans to return the family farm to beef production, but Eggleston persuaded him to start with pigs—they require a smaller investment and bring returns sooner. Eggleston owns all the animals on the farm, Musick told our reporter, explaining “I’m providing the environment, the management and the feed handling.” He and EcoFriendly have separate agreements for each of three groups: farrowers (sows producing litters), growers (raising the piglets), and finishers (hogs on their way to the slaughterhouse, which in the last year have come from other farms).
Musick was eager to show off the fencing encircling 12 of his 80 acres of woods: hog heaven. The pigs roam the woods to root through leaves and dine on black walnuts, hickory nuts, acorns, rhizomes, wild onions and garlic, herbs and roots, hopefully to pack another 100 pounds onto their 200-plus frames within a few weeks.
A clearing on one side of the woods led down to fields of turnips, black-eyed peas, rye grass and rapeseed that Musick grows for the pigs. A few dozen piglets scampered amongst the trees and hid behind enormous, watchful sows, some camped out or nursing in the ample, portable shelters Musick built for them. The sows are the only pigs that stick around long enough to get proper names: Sassy, Bristles, and Melons—named for her striped watermelon-like appearance, she graces the issue’s table of contents.
Meyer listened intently as Musick described the life of the pigs Meyer would eventually cook in his kitchen. “It [lets me] appreciate what I do a bit more,” he wrote me later, “rather than just being another cog on a wheel.”