Last week I made my way across town to Arch St. in Keene before the snow started to fly so I could interview & photograph Mark Florenz, his sons Dima and Leo, and their pigs. Archway Farm is our newest supplier of local pasture-raised pork, although as you can see that even though the swine have plenty of room to romp, root and roam, there is little for them to forage through the snow this time of year!
The Florenz Family raises their pigs on vegetable scraps, locally-grown non-gmo corn and soy, and bread from local businesses. Mark scattered some day-old bread on the snow to coax the animals out of their warm little houses to say hi, which had much the same effect as someone opening a bar of Equal Exchange chocolate in our office – yippee!
These pigs are active, able to live in small family groups, and are not fed routine antibiotics or hormones to enhance growth. Instead, they grow fit and healthy — much like the boys, who are quite at home playing with the piglets and helping Dad with chores. Mark did point out are lucky to have a large stream running through the property so they don’t have to bring fresh water across several fields to the animals in the far pastures.
Giving the boys room to roam, hands-on experience raising animals and engaging in the natural world, and quality time with their father while he works at home were all benefits Mark and his wife took into consideration when buying this 80 acre farm 2 years ago. Having grown up on a farm, myself, I identified with Leo’s tales of their recent cross country skiing adventure through the fields and Dima’s excitement to help his dad sell pork. I wanted to make sure they were included in this informal photo shoot, because at the very least their spirit of fun and curiosity is central to the operation of the farm.
The Florenz family looks after 8 sows and have an average of 60 pigs at various stages of growth on the farm at any given time. They are a mix of heritage breeds known for their flavor, marbling in the meat, and ability to forage in open pasture. There is minimal fencing around the pigs who live further from the road that cuts through the farm because they don’t stray too far from their houses in the winter. I started to worry as Leo got a group of nervous piglets to venture out of the enclosure, but I felt foolish for doing so as they ran swiftly around the corner and right back in! I deeply apologize to anyone reading for not switching to video for this, because it was hilarious and adorable. They don’t want to be too far from the sows at this stage – and who can blame them?
Apart from having a reason to play with piglets and compare notes with other farm kids, I was mostly excited to visit these beautiful pastures tucked into the West part of Keene because I’ve known Mark as the Chair of the Board for Monanock Farm and Community Coalition and a member of the Policy Committee. He is knowledgeable and passionate about our local food system, and is deeply committed to producing quality pork at an appropriate scale to be able to offer an affordably-priced product, and yet still set an excellent example for his children by raising animals in a compassionate, comfortable, and ecologically considerate way. We are thankful to have Mark and his family farming in our community, and to be able to sell their quality pork at our co-op!