Big Creek Farm’s free-range pork is ethically bred and reared on the farm By Wendy O. Dixon
Mark Fortune’s family has farmed in Laurel Hill, Fla., since the early 1800s, his many ancestors living off the land for generations. The family has raised goats, Asian water buffalo and Texas longhorns, renaming the farm a few times over the years. Today, what’s known as Big Creek Farm is home to one of the largest herds of purebred heritage Tamworth hogs in the United States.
At Big Creek, pigs enjoy an abundant, stress-free life, spending their days with complete access to fresh air, wholesome foods, spring water, sunshine and plenty of space to run around. It all started with Snorkle and Porkle. “Big Creek Farm was a seed planted 40 years ago when I was given two orphan piglets I named Snorkle and Porkle,” Fortune says. “They went fishing with me every morning and became my constant companions. Ever since then I have had a great appreciation for pigs’ inquisitive personalities. I still enjoy watching the piglets run around and get in trouble.”
The farm’s Tamworth hogs are purebred from championship bloodlines. And the breeding stock is registered with the American Tamworth Association, Fortune says. “Tamworths are one of the oldest and most physically active breeds of hogs in the world and are nicknamed Irish Grazers,” he adds. “They can get up to 80 percent of their protein from grass, making them excellent grass-fed, free-range hogs. Our hogs are born in the wild, not in farrowing crates. We rarely see a piglet for the first three weeks because the mother will keep them hidden in the woods.”
Fortune grows all-natural heirloom corn with no pesticides or weed killers, then grinds the corn and mixes it with soy meal and natural minerals to feed the hogs. “We try to grow enough corn to feed our hogs all year long,” he says. “But when we do buy feed, we strictly use all natural feed with no antibiotics.” The hogs also drink from the many artesian springs that feed the creek.
What results is a pork product with rich flavor. “Our hogs are slow grown and allowed free range, they’re not placed in feed lots,” Fortune says. “All the spices that go into our pork products are also all-natural with no artificial ingredients and no nitrites or nitrates added.”
At the Seaside Farmers Market, you can buy Big Creek Farm’s Tamworth hog sausage and cube pork loin. “The pork loin is tender. It’s got a rich flavor and you can cut it with a fork,” Fortune says. “Our country sausage and bacon is smoked with persimmon wood that we cut down ourselves here on the farm.”
The Seaside Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.