David and Melissa Wallace and their son, Darren, have been raising hogs on their small family farm in Duplin County since 2012. The farm is Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), required for all NC hog growers who partner with Firsthand Foods. This means among other things that each sow has a shelter with a “pig rail”—a rail that gives the piglets a place to get away from their mother, who might accidentally crush them when she lies down. Piglets stay with their mothers for eight weeks. The AWA standards include other aspects of animal husbandry and welfare, record-keeping, pasture-management, and feeding and nutrition programs, with a goal of raising animals humanely, on pasture, without feeding antibiotics or animal by-products, or using added hormones.
On the farm, sows lay in the shade of their houses, surrounded by wriggling piglets, or in a wooded paddock where the growing piglets can run about. Out in the fields, the larger pigs roamed in pastures. A common misconception is that pigs should be “grass fed.” Pigs are not ruminants like cows; grass is never the major part of their diet. The Wallaces raise the hogs outdoors in their natural habitat of woods and pasture, and give them supplemental feed.
In order to have a supply of non-GMO feed, the Wallaces started growing the corn themselves. They save 20,000 bushels of the harvest for themselves and sell the rest. They also grow soybeans and, with help from grants, invested in a soybean crusher that roasts the beans before pressing the oil from them. Altogether, they farm 700 acres. They buy minerals to supplement the corn and soybeans. The Wallaces do not add antibiotics to their pigs’ feed. Confinement operations often do because the pigs are kept in such close quarters, but the Wallaces have never needed antibiotics. The piglets get antibodies from their mothers’ milk, and they live in a natural and healthy environment.
David and Melissa both grew up on farms. They used to focus on growing row crops and commodity crops like wheat and corn. For nineteen years, they didn’t raise hogs because of all the large hog operations surrounding their farm, but they started again and now partner with sellers like Firsthand Foods, The Pig, and Lady Edison. They’re both passionate about farming and enjoy trying new methods and continually seeking to improve their operation.