Tucked away on a hillside deep into Washington County, N.Y., in the Town of Jackson, not far from Vermont, sits a small farm with Berkshires and birds. John Ubaldo and his wife Laura relocated here a bit over one year ago from downstate N.Y. primarily to raise the Berkshire breed of pigs, a heritage breed, renowned for the flavor of their meat as well as their flocks of chickens, ducks and geese. For some background on the Ubaldos and their products see here and here. They sell their product at Farmers markets in Westchester, N.Y., through Washington County's Farm to Chef Express or directly from the farm. At the moment, they do not have a website.
I paid a visit to the farm yesterday to pick up some spare ribs and had a chance to visit with the Ubaldos and their livestock. I also left having purchased a few items beyond the ribs that I drove there to pick up, including goose, duck and chicken eggs, andouille, Canadian bacon, smoked duck breasts, smoked quail and smoked trout.
After we finished conducting business, the Ubaldo's brought me down to visit with their prized Berkshire pigs. Our first stop was to see the pigs out in the field, especially John's favorite boar, who he affectionately, albeit inappropriately at this time, calls "Grandpa." Grandpa is a large, still young, very friendly boar, who got up out of his late afternoon revery to come and pay us a visit. He very much seemed to enjoy John's caresses and scratches. The other pigs looking on from surrounding fields appeared to be a wee bit envious as many ambled over to see what was going on.
John Ubaldo with "Grandpa"
While standing there, I noticed that the air did not smell of flowers. On the same token, neither was it a profound stench. I could certainly discern that this was a farm, but it was not significantly odoriferous or particularly unpleasant. It was clear that these pigs, even though most are destined for a slaughterhouse and a plate, are extremely well cared for.
We moseyed on to visit other pens. The Ubaldo's have a rotation set up for certain pigs as they ready for market. Though the pigs have the fields and even woods to roam around in for most of their lives, as they close in towards the end, their feed becomes more circumscribed. It is not for nothing that these pigs attain the size they do. Unlike most pig farmers in the U.S., the Ubaldos do not slaughter their pigs until they reach a minimum weight of 400 pounds and at least one year of age. Even though he breeds the pigs, Ubaldo does not sell any piglets for slaughter. His preference is for the classic, deep red, highly marbled meat of the adult Berkshire.
To emphasize the last point he and Laura brought me to see their most recent litters of piglets, including a litter of rare English bloodline Berklshires less than 24 hours old. The other litters of adorable piglets were 3 and 6 weeks old respectively. Unfortunately, the breed has a reputation for poor mothering and the mother of the 3 week-old litter had to be separated from them as her milk had run dry and she was more likely to inadvertently hurt or kill them than to nurture them. While the mother may have suffered somewhat from the separation, the piglets appeared not to have as they were active and extremely playful. The newborn piglets and the 6 week-olds were still penned in with their mother, though the newborns were in a pen designed to allow them access to their mother without her being able to inadvertently crush them.
Newborn under the warming lights
Piglet less than 24hrs old
Unfortunately the afternoon had shifted into evening and I had to get on. On my way off the property, I stopped to visit with the birds. With plenty of free-range including a pond and meticulously clean barns, these appeared to be very well-taken care of birds too. Interestingly, John Ubaldo told me that he does not have a significant problem with predators since all the birds are housed at night. During the day, he does lose an occasional bird to a roaming hawk or a smart snapping turtle.
For more photos of this superb farm, please see here or the slideshow below.