Hog Heaven at Snug Valley Farm
It was sunny spring day when we stopped by Snug Valley Farm to see their newly repurposed hoop barn. The Nottermans, Helm, Nancy and their son, Ben, raise Holstein steers for beef and pastured pigs in East Hardwick. The barn renovations, which were partially funded with VHCB’s Implementation Grant, are the latest improvements to their growing business.
The Nottermanns began their farming careers as dairy farmers in Bradford, Vermont in 1974. Five years later they moved their farm to East Hardwick, and in 1986 transitioned out of dairy. They saw an opportunity in raising the bull calves of dairy cows and began selling Holstein beef. “People think it’s strange, but they size up well and taste great!” Nancy told us. During that time they also raised a few pigs for themselves and Ben developed a thriving side business growing pumpkins. Fast-forward to the present, Helm and Nancy have retired from their off-farm jobs and Ben has started his own family. As the Nottermanns brainstormed enterprises that would support the two generations, they realized their pork sold out at every farmers markets. So they decided to expand. As Ben explained it, “We went from doing 10-15 [pigs] a year to somewhere north of 400 [pigs] a year. So we’re growing exponentially, and the market seems to be able to absorb it. We’re moving forward and rolling well.”
In order to fully flesh out their vision, the Nottermanns enrolled in VHCB’s Farm & Forest Viability Program, and completed a business plan with the aid of consultant Rose Wilson. In the process, the Nottermans realized their large hoop barn that had previously held firewood and equipment could be converted to an efficient pig home. Because of their participation in the Viability Program, the Nottermans were eligible to apply for an Implementation Grant, which matches and re-reimburses funds for farm projects completed by Viability Program participants. In November of 2015, their application was selected for funding.
As we toured the revamped space, Ben explained how the project improved efficiency on the farm, “It used to take at least two or three people to load the pigs onto the trailer, now, because of the better pen design and new holding area, it only takes one or two people.” The extra space also means they can raise more pigs during the winter, thereby providing consistent year-round supply for their markets. As for the Viability Program, Ben has no regrets: “I’m certainly glad we [enrolled in the Viability Program]. It took us from the unknown of our numbers to knowing exactly what our numbers are—what it costs us to make a pound of pork or grow a pound of beef. All the production costs—we were kind of shooting in the dark on before, and now we have hard numbers to back up our thoughts. We’d still be floundering around—guessing—if we hadn’t done the Farm Viability Program.”