Titles: Master Mower, Belly Rub Connoisseur, Champion Pig Ambassador
Favorite Foods from the Farm: Dandelion flowers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, butternut squash
Winnie joined our family in November 2018, although we didn’t know it at the time!
Kevin and I both have years of experience working in farm animal rescue. In the summer of 2018, this background connected us with a caring woman who was trying to find a home for a potbellied pig who had fallen through the cracks at the farm where she lived. Winnie’s story echoes that of too many pet pigs across the country. People purchase them as cute little piglets and, unaware of a pig’s needs and behaviors (let alone healthy adult size), lose interest or become frustrated as the piglet gets older. Pigs are smart, funny, strong-willed animals, but their intelligence, stubbornness, strength, and natural behaviors such as rooting makes them a challenge for many households. As a result, many pet pigs end up abandoned or surrendered to shelters and rescues. In Winnie’s case, she languished in a dark horse stall without the care or attention she needed.
When we first met Winnie, she was so obese that she couldn’t see or move around well, her overgrown hooves were like flippers, and she was noticeably withdrawn and depressed. We trimmed her hooves, recommended a more appropriate diet, and reached out to our networks to try to find her a new home. It is not always easy to find a good home for a pig, especially one who would need some extra care to regain her health, and so we offered to bring her to our farm to start the process while looked for a permanent home.
It should come as no surprise that we ended up as “foster failures!” After a year of looking for Winnie’s perfect forever home, we finally realized that she had already found one here at Dandelion Ridge Farm!
It has been a joy to watch Winnie blossom—first just soaking up the sunshine, and then gradually venturing farther and farther into her paddock as she gained strength, confidence, and mobility. Now healthy and active, she is a very busy woman, out grazing and exploring, sometimes into the dark of night. Not even thunderstorms faze her while she is out and about! When dandelions are flowering, Winnie works her way around the paddock, eating every flower one by one! We often see her side by side with her pygmy goat friends, Lucy and Alice, as the trio grazes or takes a siesta.
As she has come out of her shell, Winnie’s big personality has come out as well. Pigs have a penchant for drama, but Winnie is as mellow and charming as they come. It seemed appropriate to name our butternut pickles—unique and sweet, seasoned with warm mulling spices—in honor of this sweet lady!
Through our jar return program, jars of Miss Winnie’s Mulled Butternut Pickles support the Pig Advocates League, a non-profit that works to protect potbellies and other pigs through education, advocacy, rescue, and legislation. Find out more about their work at pigadvocates.com.
This Labor Day, we want to hold up all of the frontline workers who put themselves at risk to keep things running and take care of our communities, not only during this pandemic, but all the time. Industrial farmworkers and food processors are some of the most essential workers, keeping the nation fed. Yet many of them face exploitation and health hazards, and are especially at risk of COVID-19.
Farmworkers have been organizing for many years to fight for their rights, dignity, and health, whether through strikes or community organizing. The organizing of workers in Florida’s tomato fields led to the formation of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in 1993. The CIW has been recognized internationally for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work, as well as its groundbreaking Fair Food Program, which monitors participating farms for socially responsible practices and partners with national buyers to pay workers more for their work. Other organizations working to lift up farmworkers include Farmworker Justice, Feeding the Frontline, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, and the National Center for Farmworker Health, and I encourage you to support their important work.
If you want to learn more about farmworker issues, these books are also excellent places to dive in:
One of the great joys of the garden is watching all of the small life that inhabits that world and helps the plants thrive. The wide array of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and flies busily pollinating. The ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises helping keep pests at bay. The earthworms, beetles, and other invertebrates turning vegetable matter into healthy soil. Here at Dandelion Ridge Farm, we do what we can to support all of this vibrant life, including avoiding toxic chemicals, using integrated pest management techniques, planting flowers that support pollinators, and allowing for areas of wild space as wildlife habitat. We have been astounded by the number and diversity of bees and butterflies we’re seeing this summer, including a number of monarch butterflies using the milkweed we have planted as a host for their offspring. The sunflowers that line the garden are teeming with more species of pollinators than we can count! We are in awe of the array of small creatures who keep us all fed through their tireless work.
We are particularly grateful for the hum of insect activity because native bees and other pollinators essential to food production are facing enormous threats from pesticide use, climate change, habitat loss, and even competition from non-native honeybees (here’s a great short film on the topic). In fact, insect populations worldwide are rapidly declining—40% in the last 10 years—and up to 40% of the world’s insect species are at risk of extinction, according to a 2019 study. While insects are often framed as nuisances to human society (and it’s true, there are definitely some species I don’t appreciate so much…), it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of insects in ecosystems across the globe, and the worldwide ripple effect of these population losses.
But there are concrete ways we can each support beneficial native insects and other invertebrates. One of our favorite resources is the Xerces Society, “an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.” Their website contains a vast array of publications, videos, and other materials about these vital species and how to protect them and conserve the ecosystems they are a part of. They are hosting an ongoing webinar series on topics ranging from beneficial predatory insects to the affects of pesticides on pollinators to conservation guides specific to different species and regions of the country. Past webinars are also available online if you missed one. The Xerces Society has an enormous wealth of information, with many access points, including education, community science, habitat support, and advocacy. We urge you to support their work and get involved!
If you don’t have a garden to watch the mesmerizing dances of butterflies, bees, and others at home, we’ll share our pollinator plot with you. We like to watch this video on a loop as a bedtime meditation—we hope you enjoy it, too!
Now I’ll leave you with a celebration of the humble bumblebee by poet and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Burly dozing humblebee!
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,
Far-off heats through seas to seek,
I will follow thee alone,
Thou animated torrid zone!
Zig-zag steerer, desert-cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines,
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.
Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere,
Swimmer through the waves of air,
Voyager of light and noon,
Epicurean of June,
Wait I prithee, till I come
Within ear-shot of thy hum,--
All without is martyrdom.
When the south wind, in May days,
With a net of shining haze,
Silvers the horizon wall,
And, with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,
And, infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace,
With thy mellow breezy bass.
Hot midsummer’s petted crone,
Sweet to me thy drowsy tune,
Telling of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers,
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found,
Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure,
Firmest cheer and bird-like pleasure.
Aught unsavory or unclean,
Hath my insect never seen,
But violets and bilberry bells,
Maple sap and daffodels,
Grass with green flag half-mast high,
Succory to match the sky,
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catch fly, adders-tongue,
And brier-roses dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,
All was picture as he passed.
Wiser far than human seer,
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff and take the wheat,
When the fierce north-western blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep,--
Woe and want thou canst out-sleep,--
Want and woe which torture us,
Thy sleep makes ridiculous.
We cannot be silent. The brutal murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other African Americans in the past weeks have brought this country’s ongoing legacy of systemic inequality and white supremacy to the fore. In the wake of these killings and amidst the outcry of grief and rage around the country (indeed, around the world), we are keenly aware of our immense white privilege and the ways we benefit from unequal systems.
Systemic racism has long infiltrated all aspects of society, beyond racial profiling, overpolicing and mass incarceration, unequal healthcare access, and housing discrimination all the way to land dispossession and fresh food inequality. Black farmers have faced debilitating discrimination from banks when applying for loans, from the USDA at all levels, and from corporate farms and white farming communities that have driven them from their lands. Heirs property laws have further tied the hands of those farmers who were able to hold on to their land. The very people who toiled the fields while enslaved, amassing wealth for their white masters, were robbed of the ability to grow nourishment for their families.
In fact, George Floyd’s family experienced this land theft first hand. One of his ancestors, Hillary Thomas Stewart, was born a slave, but once free, he managed to acquire 500 acres of farmland in North Carolina. His white neighbors took advantage of Stewart’s race and illiteracy and took over his land, leaving him powerless to defend his property. That was in the 1800s, and since then the Floyd family has been subject to unequal treatment in both rural and metropolitan settings alike. We have to wonder, when will they, and other Black American families, find a place to call home?
We know that we have an enormous amount to learn and to do to make our society one in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive and grow. We stand in solidarity with protesters and others doing the vital work of antiracism. In addition to supporting organizations fighting for justice and equality in all arenas, and giving your business to Black Farmers in your community, we encourage you to explore and support these organizations working on behalf of Farmers of Color and for food access and sovereignty in marginalized communities:
I’d like to end with a poem by Ross Gay that the Xerces Society shared. It was inspired by the 2014 police killing of Eric Garner, another Black American like George Floyd, whose dying words were “I can’t breathe.”
A Small Needful Fact
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
[Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted by the Xerces Society from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.]