Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
The mud-splattered all-terrain vehicle (ATV) bobbed along the forest path, down the hill, around the bend and finally came to a stop as the curious “Woodland hogs”, of the heritage Berkshire breed, trotted over to see their mum-human and have some affectionate conversation. Energetic lean and tan, Lori...gave a“piggy, piggy, piggy” and at least 30 more enthusiastic Berkshires came hobbling over the tree-line to give a cheery hello.
Lori Hill and her woodland Berkshire pigs
Lori and Doug Hill’s Cabin Creek Heritage Farm in Prince Georges County has gone through a complete metamorphosis since I last visited their alpacas, at least 7 years ago. In 2000 the family farm had a herd of alpacas, a few chickens and cats, of course. Lori Hill sold off the animals and then found herself depressed by a true empty nest; her three children were away at college and there were no woolly friends to greet her each morning. Scouting around for ideas to cultivate their 24 acres, Doug, was surfing the internet when he came across an article on woodland pigs. The couple talked and said we have we have land, we have woods, we want to give to give back to the land more than we take from it and we love animals. As a first generation family farm and farmstead, Lori says they feel it’s a “missionary calling” to foster this sustainable farm and give back to the land at the same time.
A close neighbor, Mike Haigwood, co-manager of PA Bowen Farmstead gave the Hills a in-depth tour of his multi-species farmstead. Doug and Lori said “We could do this”. Lori told me, “We don’t have “trade secrets”, we trade secrets or share information with other sustainable small farmers”. You can’t go far in the sustainable small farm world without hearing the name, Joel Salatin. His farm model was THE template for the Hills’ vision as it has been for many fledgling farmers.
Smiling with pride, Lori told me that all of her three children-Zach, Amanda and Jessica have returned after college to live near and work on the farm.
In addition to the farmstead 24 acres, Cabin Creek Heritage Farm now leases an additional 30 acres just up the road which was also part of the 3 hour tour Lori conducted for me. Lori and Doug are on the look-out for more farmable land when the right acreage shows up.
As a true homestead, the Hill family built five eggmobiles themselves and are still in the process of completing the retail store building which also serves as egg packing corner with a chicken processing area attached. Most of the other buildings on the property were built by the family.
The symbiotic cycle of the family and animals thriving on the land while also returning nutrition to the soil is one of the most rewarding relationships a farm can cultivate. Of this, Cabin Creek Heritage Farm is a shining example.
The Brood of Cabin Creek Heritage Farm
Rhode Island Reds and Golden Comets lay some of the finest eggs around. Roots Market of Clarksville, MD, is one of the farm’s best customers of eggs. They can’t keep the eggs in stock; customers say Cedar Creek Heritage eggs are the best of all eggs carried in the store.
Traditionally pigs were raised in woodlands, and while this practice is still somewhat common in Britain, it’s almost unheard of in the United States because of the industrialization of agriculture. Cabin Creek Heritage Berkshire pigs live year round in the woods-No confined barns - just the sky, pasture, old oak trees, healthy soil and “piggy candy”...acorns! “Acorn finished” pork is famous in Italy and Spain home of the world famous cured prosciutto and Jamon Serrano. In our region, there appears to be a run on pastured pig bacon-as is the case for Sally Fallon’s farm-PA Bowen Farmstead and Cedar Creek Heritage Farm. Since each vriety of livestock has primal cuts, bacon and the pork tenderloin the stars for hogs.
The broiler chickens, raised for meat, are safe and sound in a protected “chicken tractor”of Joel Salatin design. The mobile chicken coop has sunlight openings, plenty of ventilation and is moved daily for fresh pasture foraging.
Katahdin sheep have hair, not wool, which the sheep shed on their own-no need for shearing; they look similar to a goat. This breed of heritage sheep are also parasite resistant.
Black Angus and Devon Beef
Heritage turkeys are also raised outdoors with daily access to grass which they utilize to an even greater extent than broilers do. These pastured heritage breed turkeys are far superior in flavor and texture to the typical supermarket turkey.
As Cabin Creek Heritage Farm grows in leaps and bounds, stay tuned for more animals...maybe even a few new breeds.
To find Cabin Creek Heritage Farm products call or visit the farm or one of the farmers markets Farmer's Markets
Riva (Annapolis), FRESHMARKET (DC), Montpellier (Upper Marlboro), Our Local Bounty, St. Thomas Church Croom)