Sunday, August 9, 2020
Meet the Kobe Beef of Pigs and Others Raised on a Farm Near You
Josh Hale of Elkhorn Ranch South couldn’t resist turning his boar into a reindeer this winter. PHOTO: Josh Hale
Thursday, February 6, 2020


When Josh Hale whistles, all his little piggies come running, led by a 750-pound boar that resembles a big old German shepherd.

They pasture on the grass at ELKHORN RANCH SOUTH based near Mackay in the shadow of Idaho's tallest mountain peaks. And Josh and his wife Kashia Hale even plant turnips, radishes and peas for them to nibble on.

Josh Hale told the story of his new venture as a hog farmer this past week at a meet and greet between farmers and Wood River Valley buyers, including restaurant owners and supermarket managers.

Harmony Hens bask in sight of their mobile home roosts. PHOTO: Spencer Mallet

The event was organized by the Local Food Alliance, part of the Sun Valley Institute. And it featured a wide range of producers from Brett Stevenson, whose Hillside Grain was hawking Barley Berries and Wheat Berries along with its wheat flour to Sineroi Springs, which showcased its smoked chipotle and  cracked pepper jerky made from cattle raised on grass with no MSG, sugar or nitrates added.

The Hales got into pig farming by accident after buying a small farm. They started out with eight little pigs destined for the plates of friends and families. But their endeavor proved so popular that it began taking on a life of its own.

With 20 sow each giving birth to 18 two-pound piglets twice a year, the Hales now have 200.

"The boars and sows all know their names. And they come when you call or whistle," said Josh Hale, who pork is featured on the dinner menu at Ketchum’s Limelight Hotel and through NourishMe and Kraays Market. “You have to lead them because they are followers. And each has its own personality. Some are playful. Others prefer to mind their own business."

Spencer Mallet hawks his eggs during the Farmers Meet and Greet held at the Ketchum Innovation Center. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

Not only do hogs provide the other white meat, but the dominant fat in pork is monosaturated fat, the same fat found in avocados and olive oil, said Hale. Those raised on natural forage and sunshine like his also contain more micronutrients, particularly fat-soluble vitamins E and D and minerals like selenium.

Each type of the Hales' heritage breeds also have their unique flavor. The Hales’ Mangalitsa pigs are hairy pigs from Hungary that look like Hungarian sheep with hair covering their eyes and have an unbeatable flavor that’s been called the kobe beef of pork.

The Berkshire hogs are prized for their juiciness, flavor and tenderness. And Large Black pigs, which have big floppy ears and can trace their bloodlines back 300 years to England, have an Old World flavor and fatty red meet like Wagyu Japanese beef.

  • Spencer Mallett hadn’t planned on getting into the hen business, having grown up on a dairy farm in the Magic Valley.

    Restaurants, including Café Della, showed what can be done with local products. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

    But he saw the need for “really good happy organic hens and eggs” last year. And so now he’s the chicken tender and egg collector for HARMONY HENS.

    He has happy little videos of free-roaming chickens running around after bugs on a 26,000-square foot plot the size of a playground three miles north of Nat Soo Pah near Twin Falls. They roost in modern  mobile trailers that run off solar panels.

    Doug Heuttig pitches the red cattle, pigs and chickens he grows at Red Star Ranch near Hazelton. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

    In a year’s time the hens have grown from 900 to 1,800.

    “Every dozen eggs someone buys is a tangible vote towards health,” Mallett said.

  • KRAAY’S MARKET south of Bellevue is the only food hub in the state recognized by the Food and Drug Administration, said Sherry Kraay.

    The Kraays pick up products from farmers and put them in cold storage, while Waterwheel Farm near  Emmett brings over Boise-area products. Sherry Kraay then packs customer bags on Wednesday morning, sending out 100 to 125 deliveries a week.

    "We never dreamed we would be in this position, with a website and a thousand customers on our list,” she said. “Five years ago, we were nothing. But we have a lot of happy customers who love a variety of food."

  • CASTLE ROCK RANCH Owner Russ Frank is getting ready to field a herd of bison, which it plans to sell by next winter, said Bill Pereira, of Big Chief Organics. Frank owns property in the Silver Creek area, as well as an organic cattle ranch in the Copper Basin.
  • Andrea Baird was a bit of a novelty among the food producers--she is a flower farmer.

    "I have seven kids and, when they grew, I decided to sell flowers," said, Baird, who was meeting with local florists, such as Sue Bridgman while in Ketchum.

    Baird grows her flowers on her five-acre PAINTED BLOOM FARM near Twin Falls, her art studio right in the middle of it all. She researches what grows well in south-central Idaho and what florists want. The result: An array of common flowers, as well as such species as Earl Grey Larkspur, Magic Cherry Blossom Delphiniums, Coral Fountain Amaranthus and Hot Biscuits Amaranthus, which produce bronze to chestnut colored plums ideal for autumn bouquets.

    "There are lots of beautiful cut flowers, such as dahlias, that can't be shipped. So, I grow them and  deliver them myself. I have some dahlias that are so vividly colored that people think we put dye in them,” she said.

    New this year are tulips and lilies for Mother's Day.

    "We just got high tunnels so we can grow through the cold months,” she added.

  • ITTY BITTY FARMS owners London and Emily Knowles are on the verge of opening a greenhouse store that they've spent the past few months building on Main Street in Carey. Customers will be able to buy lettuce, spinach, Rainbow chard, kale, peppers, sunflower and sugar pea microgreens, tomatoes grown using organic practices, as well as the tasty Rosemary Garlic and Everything Bagel Crackers that Emily makes.

    They just finished building the greenhouse across from Ireland Bank and hope to plant their first crops this week. They hope to have their grand opening in late March.

    "Landon, who grew up in Idaho Falls, was a landscaper but he decided it was more fun to grow food than grass," said Emily. Emily? She hails from Ontario, Canada, but spent years cruising the highways from Panama to Canada with her RV family. So, she’s happy to be putting down roots, as well.

  • RED STAR RANCH, which sits along the Snake River near Hazelton, added livestock in 2012. Today it boasts Red Devon cattle, Red Wattle pigs and Red Ranger chickens, all of whom feed on cover crops during summer and grass and alfalfa during winter. A stress-free environment minimizes the need for things like antibiotics or growth hormones to maintain health livestock, said rancher Doug Huettig.

    "We went red everything," said Huettig, who sells at Atkinsons' Market in Ketchum and Countryside Market in Twin Falls. "The red angus are smaller stature so they're conducive to finishing on grass."

  • TUBBS BERRY FARM in Twin Falls is selling an array of garlic seeds, including Chesnok Red, which is a rising star in gourmet garlic; German Red, a spicy garlic, which does well where winters are cold;Korean Red, which is very hot and not for the timid garlic fan, and Inchelium Red, which is from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington, easy to grow and produces large bulbs that store well.

    The farm’s free Bee Day 2020 will be held April 24 and 25. The farm will be open to beekeepers, wannabees and the general public from noon to 6 p.m. that Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. that Saturday. There'll be educational workshops, beekeeping equipment for sale, a honeybee observation area and food and fun.

  • BLOOM FARM community garden in Hailey's Quigley Canyon is finishing out the summer in its current location. It will move from 1.5 acres there to five acres in the center of the Quigley Farms development in Spring 2021.

"I'm excited because it will give me the chance to do things right," said Lynea Petty, who oversees the farm for The Hunger Coalition. "From working the original farm, I've learned how you need to structure flows and hang tools. Plus, the other piece of land was oddly shaped; this will be more regular."

The Hunger Coalition will also hold a greenhouse raising, tentatively scheduled for July 2020, on The Hunger Coalition's new property adjacent to its current facility in Bellevue.

Amy Mattias, who co-chaired the event with Stacy Whitman, said it was great to see the new friendships being formed. "Some people were already buying from various producers--this gave them a chance to put a face to the name."


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