Though it's usually a bad sign when abutters show up when a property owner is asking for changes to their land, a couple who plan to start breeding pigs at their 138 Adamsville Road farm in Westport …
Though it's usually a bad sign when abutters show up when a property owner is asking for changes to their land, a couple who plan to start breeding pigs at their 138 Adamsville Road farm in Westport received a warm welcome from the town's board of health Monday afternoon, and best wishes from their neighbors.
Following a 30-minute meeting, Laurie Marinone and Norm Anderson were granted unanimous approval for a 'large piggery' — a term Marinone said later could sound scary without context. But it won't be large or scary, she said — the 'large' descriptor is just required by law as they also intend to breed pigs on their Sweet Goat Farm.
They've owned the 300-year-old Oscar Palmer Farm since winning a Westport Land Conservation Trust RFP in 2011, and up until now had primarily raised show quality Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, making and selling yogurt, kefir, cheese, caramels, soap and bath products. Recently, they started raising pigs on a small scale, learning about the business and sending them to Meatworks in Westport for butchering and packaging.
"The whole experience was fascinating and gave us a tremendous appreciation for the work involved in ethically growing our meat," they wrote.
Last year, Marinone said, they decided they wanted to start breeding, which requires a 'large piggery' permit that allows more than four adult pigs. They chose the old and revered Gloucestershire Old Spot breed, which Marinone said is juicy, tender, delicious and in high demand, but not widely raised here.
"We would like to help preserve the breed, and bring a little bit more local pork back to Westport," Marinone told the board. If all goes well, she said, the couple could be ready to bring their pigs to market by the summer.
Three or four of the couple's abutters came out to speak on the application, but apart from asking how many pigs they'd have, and how close they would be to Angeline Brook and other water sources, they were all supportive:
"We've never had any problems with anything they've done over there," said David Haskins of 91 Adamsville Road. "I don't think there'll be any problem. We're a farming community and we understand that it's part of living here."
"I've known them for quite a few years now," added neighbor Ray Raposa. "I don't foresee them getting out of control."
The couple told the board that the pigs will be pasture raised and fed, and moved around the back portion of the property, far from the road and all but invisible to passers-by. They have movable electric fences to corral and contain them, she said, portable structures to house them and the pig areas would be situated far from Angeline Brook and the well — "the well is the farthest away from the pigs of everything."
As farming can be unpredictable in nature, board members asked how many could conceivably be counted on the farm in a given year. While it might be theoretically possible for a series of large farrowings (litters) that could push the number of adult and juvenile pigs to 50 or more, Marinone suggested, that's not the couple's goal or wish. They want healthy animals, well fed and taken care of, she said — too many pigs would be problematic and not what they're interested in.
"There's no way that we would ever consider having 50 or 100 pigs," Marinone said. "The back pasture wouldn't support that."
Plus, "I'm doing all the work," Anderson joked. "That's a lot of work."
In the end, the couple were granted approval for up to 10 adults (12 weeks old or older), with several farrowings per year.
"Call us for pork chops!" Marinone exclaimed as they left the room.