(607) 319-6815 catering@vannoblefarm.com

Farming

My story…

I grew up in the suburbs of Clearwater, Florida, spending most of my youth fishing in Tampa Bay. When I came to Ithaca in 2003, I fell in love with the area, and most of all, the seasons. I had never experienced hibernation, prepping for winter, or the joy that spring and summer bring to the community when the weather lifts! Experiencing this cycle made a deep impression on me.

I’ve long been intrigued by raising and processing animals. The inspiration comes from spending fall vacations at my Aunt Trish & Uncle Ed’s home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. With eyes as big as saucers, I got to do all the fun stuff– shoot every possible caliber off their back porch, string up deer, drive four wheelers, eat venison jerky and bear meat, and sometimes there was even some shine.

I started farming in 2012 at The Piggery Farm in Trumansburg, NY. Working with animals came naturally to me, and I thrived when I had time to be outside and use my body. I feel blessed to have found a lifestyle that I love, and I’m proud of the work I do with our hogs. I’m grateful to the many farmers and mentors who I continue to learn and grow from.

A love story of roasting pigs…

Skill is crucial to pig-roasting, as well as the quality and style of the smoker. I was so grateful to have a small cohort of friends who stood by me during the early years of pig roasting. Over time, I started to char the outside of the pigs less often… and I was starting to cater weddings that weren’t my friends’. Each roast, I would have friends tell me that, “This is the best one yet!”

After several years of catering with a grill-top, grease-fire trailer– I made an investment in a proper, off-set smoker. Sam at Aardac Welding in Brooktondale, allowed me to learn in his shop while working next to him, in part because he is an incredibly generous person– but I also saw a glimmer of excitement in his eye for the scale of the project. The new smoker has improved our pig roasts overall and allowed us to expand our menu to include chicken, lamb, and fish while continuing our mission of truly farm to table catering!

It is an immensely gratifying process to handle the food that you, your family and friends will eat.”

Farm Practices

Pasture

We raise pigs on pasture because it is healthier for the pigs, healthier for the land, and produces a higher quality meat. Van Noble Farm has about 25 acres of wide open fields that have long been used for beef grazing and cutting hay from because the soil does not tend to drain well. We are making progress on extending livestock fencing across many of the fields and into the woods so that it will be possible to rotate the herd into fresh pasture more regularly during the season.

Pigs do not get a significant amount of protein from grazing on pasture because they cannot digest cellulose, unlike ruminants such as cows, sheep, goats, and horses. All pigs require a significant amount of freely available protein, typically in the form of a milled grain, that has to be eaten daily to grow and thrive. This is why it is easy for a farmer to want to simply confine hogs for the duration of their lives. However hogs do receive some protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals from having access to grass to forage on and dirt to root in. And aside from the nutritional benefits, we believe that this is just the right way to raise the animals that we are going to eat.

Non-GMO Feed

All of our pigs eat exclusively non-GMO or organic grains. Many people believe that there are health concerns from consuming an organism, animal or plant, that has had its genes manipulated in certain ways. However we continue to feed non-GMO grains primarily because of the farming practice of using “RoundUp Ready” corn and soybeans. These two crops tend to make up a substantial portion of pig feeds and most other livestock feeds, and we do not want to support the continued use of glysophate (the active chemical in RoundUp), or 2,4-D (another herbicide used with GMO crops). These chemicals are known to cause cancers and birth defects for those who work and live near them. Furthermore we believe it is important to not support the corporate model to agriculture that Monsanto has driven.

Waste Streams

One of the most elegant aspects of raising pigs is being able to serve them the delicious leftover proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber that are the “wastes” of human consumption. Feeding the pigs our food waste from the house kitchen is a cute routine, but when we have so many mouths to feed that really isn’t going to cut it. So we look to other local farmer and producers to get bulk volumes of “waste”, such as dirty lettuce, squishy root veggies, smelly brewery grains, sticky whey, and apple pumice. We also get waste grain that gets cleaned out of the augers at the local organic mill. We pick up chaff from a coffee roaster to use instead of hay. And we are always on the lookout for new ways to utilize the waste streams that are available in our area.

Genetics

In 2013, our farm started with a purebred Mule Foot boar and 13 sows. Mule Foot pigs are black pig that notably has uncloven hooves, like a mule, rather than cloven hooves as most pigs have. Similar to other heritage breeds, these pigs are very well suited to handle life on pasture and have high quality, red meat. We strongly believe that the consistent great flavor in our pork comes from the high degree of intramuscular marbling in the breed.