In their field: Raven and Boar farm plans from pig to sausage


EAST CHATHAM, N.Y. -- If you like a good local meal -- of if you ve ever dined at Gramercy Tavern in New York City -- you may have eaten meat from Raven and Boar, a pig farm that supplies lots of local and New York restaurants with whey-fed pork.

Ruby and Sather Duke run the farm together, she on the business side, he in the field behind their house on the corner of County Route 34 and School House Road.

They will also, relatively soon, make and sell charcuterie, thanks to a Kickstarter video campaign that raised $60,000 for the commercial-grade, fully inspected kitchen they re in the process of building.

The Dukes have lived in East Chatham full-time since 2009; they moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., where they started HiveMindDesign, a furniture company they now run out of their house; they have a workshop out back, near the pigs and the greenhouse.

The furniture has a sustainable, low-waste ethic, and so does the farm. Whey fed to the pigs comes from a local cheesemaker. The pigs get to graze in a wide area, and the Dukes work on finding pig-friendly roughage to plant that will reduce erosion. Cornell Cooperative Extension is helping them put together a grazing plan with those goals in mind, œto effectively rotate the animals into different grazing areas, Ruby said.

The pigs are not visible from the road.

œIt s a priority for us to be as unobtrusive [as possible] to the landscape and to the community where we re raising them, Sather said.

The pigs are from mixed litters. Pigs of different ages, sizes and colors live on the Dukes 16 acres.

œWe never have a lot of one sized pig, Ruby said -- and never more than eight or so at a time that are ready to be processed.

They started farming by accident, she said. They got two pigs to raise for themselves, then two pigs to sell to a friend s restaurant, and then it snowballed from there. Ruby, new to East Chatham with a young daughter, was spending a lot of time in the New Lebanon library, where she read about whey feeding. (The Italian pigs that make prosciutto di parma are fed whey from parmesan.)

œWe were also trying to figure out how to be really cost-effective with the farm, Ruby said.

The Dukes are supporters of œnose-to-tail ethics -- using the whole animal instead of only prime cuts. It s a trend in the restaurant world now, here and elsewhere.

You can find their pork at local restaurants like Allium and Prarie Whale in Great Barrington, the Crimson Sparrow, Swoon and Food Studio in Hudson and the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, among others.

Ruby goes to New York once a week to drop off orders to restaurants. She said she likes having lots of local clients, too.

œIt s been really nice to refocus our energy back to local restaurants instead of always focusing on Brooklyn and Manhattan, she said.

The charcuterie idea came when the couple could find no one to turn their pork into salami. œThis idea has been brewing in us for at least two years, Ruby said.

Their goal is to finish the building by the end of 2013. Their recipe has been approved by Cornell; their product samples must be tested, and they aim to be USDA certified.

To do this, they need to have a HAACP (hazard analysis critical point) kitchen within their commercial-grade kitchen -- an area where food is monitored from production to delivery, and records are kept on things like ph balance, humidity and temperature. It will exclusively produce artisanal dry-cured meat.

Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, the Dukes say, there wasn t a big market for charcuterie or other products that aren t necessarily staples in the American diet. But the food revolution is here now -- caring about where food comes from and who makes it is a big deal. Trying new things and finding new products to share and enjoy is, too.

œPeople are aware of good food now, Sather said. œA lot of people have developed an interest in a palate -- that allows you to make more interesting things and know people will buy it.

What: Raven and Boar


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