Will and Dana Schouten are the owners of Closer to the Land Farm in Bear Creek, North Carolina. When they were getting started they needed some pigs to help clear their land. They hoped to find thrifty, independent animals that would not need much care and would stay calm around their other livestock and their young children.
Will is a former combat infantryman. He does all the farm events and offers old-fashioned hog butchering workshops. Their eldest daughter Heidi, now age 17, has responsibility for the livestock. Their other daughters, between the ages of 10 and 16 years, also help around the farm.
They learned about this landrace breed from The Livestock Conservancy over a decade ago and liked the breed description. When they met VAZ John Henry and VAZ Henrietta, a breeding pair of half-siblings, the hairy hogs trotted up to them and flopped over for belly rubs. It was love at first sight. They went home from Laughing Stock Farm with their first gilt, LSF Mayzie, and have not looked back. You can read more about Mayzie here. Mayzie was their first Guinea Hog and grew up with the children. Dana reports that she is their favorite sow, but she retired from breeding after her last litter when she was ten years old.
The Schoutens chose Dancing Farmer’s Horton as a mate for Mayzie. They produced some great Setty/Celesky- line-with Biggers-influence offspring. Dana credits this breeding with larger, longer, low-to-ground pigs with excellent foraging skills and great mothering instincts. With Mayzie now retired, they are keeping CTL Charlie as a breeding sow. They have downsized their herd to this breeding pair and their retired sow and reduced their acreage from sixty acres to ten.
Will and Dana select breeding stock carefully, aiming for thrifty hogs with high parasite resistance, sturdy conformation, excellent mothering abilities, and friendly temperaments. They expect to raise hogs who will thrive with little human intervention. The hogs are rotated through woodland and silvopasture and provided water at all times and supplemental winter feed. The Schoutens do not vaccinate, deworm, dock tails, cut eyeteeth or tusks, use farrowing crates, or intervene during farrowing (birthing).
As they had anticipated, their hogs played an integral part on their farm in rejuvenating the land. Acres of overcrowded pine trees were transformed into a lush, diverse, silvopasture. With their decreased acreage they reduced their formerly large herd to devote attention to hemp crops. They still sell their carefully selected breeding stock. They take the saying, “Breed the best and eat the rest” very seriously.
Will and Dana respect the Guinea Hogs’ role that is woven into America’s history. They appreciate their hardiness, mothering abilities, friendly temperaments, and the mouth-watering deliciously tender meat and lard they are famous for. They do what they can to promote awareness of the Guinea Hogs and think that anyone wanting to raise pigs should consider this breed. Dana said, “They are not always the right breed for everyone, but if you want a small, hardy, friendly pig that can be raised primarily on forage, they might be the breed for you. These noble creatures have played an integral part in restoring and rejuvenating our land. I can’t imagine life without them.”