In the late 1980s, Debbie and Bryce Gonyaw bought 55 acres of wooded land in Danville, Vermont, and named it Deer Run Farm. While Bryce had been raised on a dairy farm, he never really cared for cows, so for many years the couple raised a pig or two for their own family’s consumption. But when Bryce and Debbie retired from the farm insurance business in 2001, they began increasing production and building a local market for their pastured pork. Today, they raise up to 675 hogs annually—and they’re still not able to meet demand for their high-quality product.
While the increase from two hogs to 675 was substantial, Bryce and Debbie did so with care and a commitment to monitoring every aspect of the operation—from breeding and feeding right through to sales. A sign on the barn at Deer Run Farm reads “Welcome to Hog Heaven,” because raising animals outdoors on pasture or in the wooded acreage—with absolute attention to their health and welfare—form the very foundations Deer Run Farm’s animal husbandry practices. “The animals’ ability to roam makes for healthier, happier animals, and leaner meat,” says Bryce. He rotates the hogs so that a particular pasture will have hogs for three months, where they can root for tubers and play in the mud, followed by a three month fallow period, when the land can recover. Sows farrow in protected, roofed outdoor pens, deeply bedded with hay, where they can safely delivery their piglets, while still having access to pasture—unlike intensive farming systems where sows give birth in crates and are never allowed perform their natural behaviors outside.
The hogs at Deer Run Farm eat a mixture of soybean grain and apple pomace—the remains of the cidering process from a local cider mill—supplemented by seasonal treats like pumpkins grown on the farm. Feeding the pigs three times a day (each pig consumes about five pounds of this mixture a day) allows Bryce to visit his different pig pastures frequently to assess the animals’ health.
Debbie and Bryce became AWA-certified to help communicate to consumers that raising their animals in a high-welfare system is a priority at Deer Run Farm. “The humane treatment of our animals is very important to us,” says Bryce. “We wanted to make all of our current and potential customers aware of this. We thought the best way to do this was to become Animal Welfare Approved.”
Deer Run Farm’s pork is available to local Caledonia County residents direct from the farm on a custom basis. Bryce and Debbie also sell their pastured pork to three wholesalers: Black River Produce in North Springfield, Vermont Salumi in Plainfield, and Bryan's Custom Cutting in Barnet. For more information about the farm, visit www.DeerRunFarmVT.com, or contact Bryce at (802) 684-3821 or email@example.com.