Issue 16.6: Dec. 2013 / Jan. 2014

Prize Pigs

Story by Paul Wood
Photo by Tony Novak-Clifford

David Fitch and his wife Lehua used to live in the city. Then they bought four-plus acres in rural Maui with romantic visions of raising a family on a picture-book farm. Now when people ask what they do, they say proudly, “We’re pig farmers!” At Malama Farm they raise Berkshire hogs, a heritage breed otherwise unknown in Hawai‘i. (“Berkshire is to pork as Kobe is to beef,” explains Lehua.) The hogs reside in fifty-foot-square pens that once a week Dave drags to a fresh, grassy place on the farm. As soon as the pen moves, the Malama Farm chickens (“our cleanup crew”) sweep in. The chickens’ eggs, scrambled, become a favorite food of the hogs, as do avocados and other fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. “If I wouldn’t give it to my daughter,” Dave says, “I wouldn’t give it to the pigs.”

The farm’s lucky boar resides in his own pen, cohabitating in rotation with each of the farm’s four six-hundred-pound sows. His name is Hef, and all of the rotund, black-haired Berkshire sows are named for exotic dancers — Bubbles, Lola, Trixie and Candi “with an i.” When one of the sows is ready to produce a litter, she’s moved to a farrowing hut that Dave designed to prevent mothers from inadvertently crushing their piglets. Littermates grow up together, and then, at size, the young hogs are transported to an abattoir located less than ten miles away. The farm sells the whole hog, and the buyers are chefs — for example, pre-eminent farm-to-table restaurateur Peter Merriman. “This pork is the best in the world,” says Merriman, “and the farm itself is a tribute to modern farming.”

“We do all the stuff we shouldn’t do,” says Dave, “because what you ‘should do’ is always at the expense of the animals’ happiness.” As he talks, he tosses green apples at the sows—who seize them, grunting their contentment.