The nineteenth-century English ruralist Richard Jefferies once wrote that “every condition of modern life points in the direction of minute cultivation. Look at all the people in great cities (and small cities, for the matter of that) who cannot grow a single vegetable or a single apple for their own use.” I don’t know whether Jefferies would have argued that if you can grow vegetables and apples (and pigs, for the matter of that), you should. But he did argue that instead of growing a single crop, like wheat or corn, it might be better for many farmers to grow a wide variety of crops on their land, to cultivate minutely, an idea that has proved true all over the world. The agriculture Jefferies had in mind was a deep biological complexity, not quarter-sections of soybeans.
I’m no farmer, and the land I live on is naturally better suited to growing a little of many crops than to growing a lot of one. The economic argument for raising vegetables and apples and a couple of pigs is small change anyway. But the garden waste and the windfall apples will go to the pigs, as will pasture grasses and hickory nuts and beech mast and some commercial grain. Meanwhile, the pigs will fertilize the pasture and grub out the underbrush at the edge of the woods. In late autumn I’ll haul them up the road to a local independent slaughterhouse, which has a smokehouse of its own. I don’t know what I will think when that happens, though nearly everyone tries to tell me how it will be.