My lengthiest stay this summer was at Clawhammer Farm, a lovely piece of land that runs longways from the top of a hill into a swampy valley. The farm raises pigs, sheep, chickens, rabbits, a milk cow, and a few goats. All the animals are antibiotic and hormone-free.The barn at right, and the house up the hill.
Upon my arrival I was greeted by a curious scene–not at all what I envisioned would be my “life on the farm” for the next couple weeks. Nick, one of the farmer duo, cooked Pad Thai in the kitchen while watching TV on a giant screen. Becky, the other half of the duo, and the farmhands drank beers and laughed at one thing or another: the farm dog Dart, or whatever silly show was on TV, or Nick’s hilarious outbursts from the kitchen. Clawhammer was clearly a departure from the farms I typically visit, which are owned and worked mostly by middle- and old-aged men in Alabama.Tiny baby piglets get some rest under a heat lamp in the barn.
The next day, I was given a tour of the farm by my friend from New Orleans, Eric the woodworker. He introduced me to the nursing piglets and their giant mothers, the bunnies, the chickens, the ”grower” pigs (them’s for eating), the flock of sheep… and Beulah. Beulah’s the milk cow, and I’ll admit that I am a little obsessed with her now.Beulah, the overly affectionate cow, just before galloping over and sticking her head straight into my stomach to nuzzle me. (Which, since she’s a cow, meant holding tight so I wouldn’t fall over. Cow nuzzles are no joke.)
For a few years I ran the Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market in Tuscaloosa, so over the years I’ve visited quite a few farms. I’ve never worked on one though, and had never been to a farm that mainly produces meat. Animal farming seems to consist of much less time in the field than vegetable farming does. There is, however, plenty of work to be done. After finishing work some days, I’d take my camera out and hang out with the farm animals. Consider the photos that follow as your personal tour of the farm, as we travel from the swampy bottom to the hilltop:
On any given day, you’ll find beulah and the sheep grazing somewhere in here…Piglets experiencing their first day outside the barn and without their mamma. Right now they’re trying to hide… they’re thinking… if we can’t see you, you won’t be able to see us! Duh! Though they’re cute now, these “growers” will eventually be slaughtered for meat. When there’s a pig roast at the farm, as there was during my stay, that process begins in the pasture. Big pigs.
Chickens hanging out in their chicken tractor. Beulah and sheep wonder what the heck this little furball is doing in their pasture. BAAAAAAH! Farmer Nick talks with Dart while the pig roasts. As we prepare to eat pig, inside the barn there are piglets eating. Another picture of Dart, for good measure. If you ever see this refrigerator truck in NYC, Clawhammer Farm’s making deliveries! The farm is divided by a road, which turns out to be quite handy. Looking this direction, the barn is to the right and the house sits on the left. Dart rests inside the house during the heat of the day. This sizable garden provides many of the herbs and vegetables that feed hungry farmhands. Colors the cat takes a moment to rest in the cabbage patch. My next post shows the process of slaughtering and butchering (and eating!) a pig. It’s not for the faint of heart, but seeing the slaughter gave me new perspective on being a meat eater. Check it out here.
I hope you enjoyed the tour!
Clawhammer Farm delivers a meat CSA to Brooklyn, and supplies various restaurants in NYC with fresh, happy pork. You can also slaughter your own pig on the farm! www.clawhammerfarm.com