We don’t often think of farms as ecosystems. The word itself conjures up diagrams from eighth grade biology in which the fox devours the rabbit, that munches on the clover, that feeds off the sun. But Hayden Holbert, owner and operator of Avrom Farms, explains how his farm is just that, an ecosystem. Each living thing is an instrument playing its piece in the harmonious song of the land as Holbert orchestrates.
“Every organism here has a job,” Hayden explains. “Today we’re moving a group of younger pigs to a two-acre paddock where we’ll soon be planting corn. We’ll let them root up the cover crop (a crop planted strictly for enriching the soil) and distribute their manure for fertilization. This will reduce the amount of tilling we’ll have to do with the tractor. We’re essentially using the behavior of the pigs to benefit the health of the crops and reduce our manual workload.”
To say that Avrom Farms is diversified is an understatement. The farm produces heritage pork, heirloom chickens, grain, vegetables and even a variety of mushrooms. The land has been in Holbert’s family since his grandfather purchased the property in the 1950s. Hayden took over the operation a little over a year ago.
“I’ve known since the age of six that I wanted to be a farmer,” Hayden says. “I grew up in Chicago, but spent many summers enjoying the country life. Driving tractors, taking care of livestock – so agriculture has always been a big part of my world.”
Holbert studied sustainable agriculture in college and even spent time in France apprenticing under a charcuterie craftsman and pig farmer.
“Klaus really stressed the importance of finishing pigs on barley,” he explains. “The practice lends to a firm but buttery quality in the fat. I think this really comes through with the Mulefoot breed.”
Mulefoots are one of the many heritage pork breeds that Avrom Farms specializes in. Besides being the rarest of American swine breeds, Mulefoots have an interesting physical characteristic for which they are named. Instead of a cloven hoof like other swine breeds, these pigs have a solid hoof like that of a mule.
Hayden is just one of the many independent farms we work with to source quality, responsibly raised heritage pork.
“I love waking up each day and facing a new set of challenges,” Holbert says. “Not only working through the planning process of balancing all these enterprises and making this ecosystem function, but just the day to day work is really enjoyable for me. Producing really exceptional food on land that I know will be improved by the practices we’re doing is important.”