November 9, 2011

The Piggery Goes to Market

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Three hundred fifty pigs, hundreds of Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions and 15 menu items. These aren’t exactly the types of numbers Cornell engineering and genetics graduates expect to end up crunching.

Brad Marshall ’97 and Heather Sanford ’97 are proud founders and owners of The Piggery, a small business that produces pork products with a sustainable, artisan approach. After graduating from Cornell they settled in San Francisco with high-powered careers. But after tiring of the “rat race,” the couple began to dream of a business of their own, inspired by the popular local farms and foods. The couple moved to be closer to their families in New York and begin their farm.

At the time, the only meat products offered at the Ithaca Farmers Market, and most farmers’ markets for that matter, were frozen. Marshall and Sanford envisioned providing local meats that required little to no preparation. They purchased 70 acres in Trumansburg and a few piglets, and tried out new roles as farmers, butchers and entrepreneurs.

Years later, after expanding into prepared products, a store front and hundreds of Community Supported Agriculture partnerships, through which communities financially support farms in exchange for shares of produce, the couple haven’t lost sight of their core value of sustainability. Though they continue to grow and expand  — last week Sanford butchered her first cow to offer a larger variety of meat — they refuse to forget their origins.

We visited the farm last week to see in person what made the Piggery so unique. Surrounding Marshall and Sanford’s little farm house were acres of land with lush, tall grass. One of the first things I noticed before we parked were five or six pigs roaming free in their yard. Marshall greeted us as we got out of the car and joked about their “pet” pigs. Though he still had a full day’s work ahead of him, he offered to take us to the pasture and show us their herd.

The pigs trotted into the area where we stood and some came over to explore our boots and nibble at our pants. When Marshall talked about the herd, he sounded like a father bragging about his children. I was amazed by how much thought Marshall and Sanford had put into minor details of their pigs’ happiness —- their favorite food, their favorite grasses, their favorite times to sleep. Maybe this is why even their simplest products are so remarkable.

Sanford talked with us about the pigs we saw roaming free.  As she described them she was sure to include details of their personality — “she’s a control freak with her babies,” or “he’s a lazy boy, he could sleep all day.” The more time we spent on the farm, the more we realized how obssessed this couple is with their pigs.

The line of meat devotees that stretches out the Piggery’s door on Saturday mornings shows how much customers appreciate the couple’s sustainable, old-fashioned ways. Ithacans value quality and honest food and the Piggery is where they go to find it.

Check out The Sun’s video feature on The Piggery.

Original Author: Meagan McKeever