Pink Boot Farm purchases Pawlet property

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PAWLET — For local farmers Mike and Hadley Stock, working in harmony with the land and their livestock isn't just good agricultural ethics; it's the secret to a tasty pig.

The couple, who have raised pigs through their Pink Boot Farm since 2010, recently purchased 80 acres of land in Pawlet with the help of former owners Beth Moser-Duquette and Chris Moser and the Vermont land Trust. Now, they've begun to expand their operation.

"We had outgrown the property we had been leasing," said Hadley Stock. "It was 12 acres but only five were usable, and it was surrounded by wetlands."

Though the Stocks placed a bid on another Pawlet property, the land was eventually purchased by another couple. Still, the Land Trust made it clear that they'd like to help the Stocks achieve their dream.

"We got involved with the Land Trust at that point, and met all of these people who really believed in us," Stock explained. "They said they wanted to work with us to find something, that they didn't want us to give up on what we were doing."

When the Moser Estate came on the market, Hadley realized that she had a close connection to the property owners.

"Beth was my high school art teacher," she explained. "I've known her forever."

When Moser-Duquette inherited the property, purchased by her family in 1993, according to the Land Trust, she was ardent that the land would be protected from development. Under her family's ownership the land had been used for hunting and foraging, as well as raising sheep and pigs, and Moser-Duquette hoped to conserve the land for agriculture, forestry, and wildlife.

"I called her and explained that we had been farming for a while, but it had been a cash business so we couldn't get a traditional mortgage," Stock said. "We said that we'd like to work something out, and she worked with us and the Land Trust to come up with a deal that worked for everyone."

Eventually, the Moser Estate ended up providing short-term financing for the couple, who plans to refinance the loan later on with the help of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board's "Farm and Forest Viability Program." Since making the move this fall, the Stock's have doubled the size of their herd.

"In anticipation of being here we had bred all of our sows," Stock said. "We've got over 200 pigs here now; there's no way we could have done that at our old property."

When it comes to the conservation that Moser-Duquette was so committed to, Stock says that Pink Boot Farm is the perfect fit.

"We place a strong emphasis on land preservation," she explained. "We're very sustainable; we feed our pigs waste products like whey, which is a product that cheese farms need to figure out how to get rid of."

Beyond the environmental benefits, that whey — provided by local dairy farms including Bennington's Maplebrook Farm, the Argyle Cheese Farmer across the New York border, and the neighboring Consider Bardwell Farm in Pawlet — is a healthy source of protein for the pigs according to Stock.

To further reduce their impact on the land, the Stocks move their pigs frequently to prevent damage to the ground around them.

"They're raised in the woods very instinctively, just acting as pigs are supposed to act," she said. "They're happy, well provided for animals."

Though it would typically take about five months to get a pig to market weight at a more conventional operation, Stock says that it takes almost nine months at Pink Boot Farm.

"It takes us longer because they're out there living life as a pig should," said Stock. "They're not locked in a cage, up to their elbows in mud."

That patient process pays off according to Stock, who says that Pink Boot Farm typically sells up to four pigs to Manchester's Cilantro Restaurant. Still, the couple has struggled to keep up with demand.

"They want us to do more than that, because they have another restaurant in Bennington now," she said, adding that other restaurants have expressed interest in their pork. "We had to turn down a lot of people because we didn't have the resources to meet demand. Having this land helps us achieve that."

As Pink Boot Farm continues to grow, Stock hopes that they can continue to provide pork that is both delicious and sustainable.

"I think the way we farm really makes a big difference in the quality of the meat, and it definitely makes a big environmental difference," she added. "This is a beautiful property, and we intend to keep it that way by working with the animals to create a better way of doing things compared to conventional agriculture."

Reach Cherise Madigan at cmadigan@manchesterjournal.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.


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