Archive for November, 2008

I know this time of year is difficult.

29 Nov

But when things like this happen,  We all need to chip in and do what we can.  Just want to make everyone aware of this.

A message from Josh Viertel, the president of Slow Food USA about a farm fire in South Dakota: I just got off the phone with Arie McFarlen who is a member of our Ark of Taste committee.

Arie owns Maveric Heritage Ranch in South Dakota, where she has single-handedly saved several rare breeds of pigs, bringing them back from the brink of extinction.  Tragically, last week, Arie’s barn burned to the ground killing over 40 of her rare breed hogs, sows with babies and her treasured horse.  She lost everything – the feed she’d put away for the winter, the feeding troughs – she doesn’t even have a pitch-fork.  Yet she still has other animals to care for. Since it was an electrical fire and electricity powers her water pump there was no water on the farm to put out the fire.

Arie is devastated, but full of hope. Fortunately she kept duplicate breeding pairs of her rare breeds in multiple locations on the farm, so no breed was lost.  Those remaining animals are keeping her going.  Her neighbors are helping her out as well.  She told me about neighbors using tractors to bring water for her animals until the pump could be restored with temporary power.  She said, “One thing about living in a rural community is that everyone pitches in when something goes wrong.”  To continue her work though she is going to need more help than her neighbors can give. Our shared work makes us all a part of her community and we should pitch in too.

Unfortunately there isn’t a chapter in South Dakota yet, so we’re reaching out to the larger Slow Food community.  A special fund has been set up to help, and you can find more information in the linked press release.  It is important that we take care of each other in times like these.  I encourage you to share this information with your members, and if you can, to give your support.

Donations can be made online at or sent to the “Endangered Hog Foundation” in care of


Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. at:
Endangered Hog Foundation
Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.
47869-242nd St.
Dell Rapids, South Dakota 57022

You can read a letter from Arie below.  We’ve posted her letter on the Slow Food USA blog at

Josh Viertel


Dear Friends of Maveric:

It is with the deepest and most profound grief that I write this message. At 5:30am November 19th, 2008, we awoke to our beautiful 100 year old gambrel barn engulfed in flames. Trapped within the barn was my beloved stallion, several rare Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, an extremely rare Wessex saddleback boar, a favorite guinea hog boar and all of my dearly loved cats. Although we made attempts to rescue our animals, we were unable to save any from the barn.

We were able to run pigs from their pens near the barn to the pastures and get them away from the heat & flames. Many animals in these pens were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Though it is several days after the fire, we are still losing animals we have been nursing and trying to save.

The fire burned with such intensity that it caught a large tree and our new barn on fire as well. The firemen were able to save our new barn, but our gambrel was a complete loss. The fire marshal reported that the fire was burning in excess of 2000 degrees due to the way the metal items in the barn melted and puddled. The fire was apparently caused by a failure in the main power breaker. When the power transformer began to melt, we lost power to the whole farm. This also left us without water, as our well is pumped by electricity.

All of our feed (approximately 1000 bales of alfalfa), our tools, watering troughs & feeders, buckets, piglet pens, fencing supplies, power cords, winter heaters, saddles & horse gear, construction materials for our new barn and so much more were completely destroyed.

We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save these breeds of pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.

This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that these rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident or disease could take yet another species from this planet.

Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have received many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Dakota Rural Action. Because of this outpouring of encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and insure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that biodiversity amongst pigs is preserved.

The Endangered Hog Foundation has been established to help us rebuild and to help continue work with endangered pig breeds. We fully intend to carry on with our DNA research, breeding program, establishing new breeders and promotion of endangered pigs. We have already begun the process of cleaning up the debris and will begin construction of a facility to continue working with our pigs as soon as spring arrives in South Dakota. Temporary measures to provide for the pigs during the upcoming winter are underway.

We need your help. Our immediate needs are for physical labor to help with clean up and building temporary shelter to winter the pigs. Additionally, we need to find a source for alfalfa hay square bales, to obtain portable shelters for the pigs due to farrow in early 2009, hog equipment and hand tools.

Donations can be sent to the “Endangered Hog Foundation” in care of Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. at the address below or through the link on our web page at

Thank you to everyone who has offered support. I cannot describe how it feels to stand in a place of profound grief and intense gratitude at the same time. We will carry on through the love and support of our friends.

Endangered Hog Foundation
Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.
47869-242nd St.
Dell Rapids, South Dakota 57022

Arie McFarlen, PhD
Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.
(605) 428-5994

Happy Thanksgiving!

27 Nov

Here’s a handy video from the Minneapolis Star Tribune featuring Scott demostrates the best way to carve a turkey… just for us!

We wish you a happy Thanksgiving!