As one of a handful of Berkshire pig producers in the state, Daniel and Kim Croker know the value of their product – so much so that they are sharing it with pork lovers via a community-supported agriculture initiative.
The couple moved from Brisbane in March 2017 to establish Fork It Farm at Lebrina, which is home to 55 pure Berkshire pigs, led by a handsome breeding boar called Romeo.
Romeo shares his paddocks with nine breeding sows, immature boars almost ready for the abattoir, and several litters of piglets.
The Crokers recently launched their Whole Hog Program, where people buy shares via a six-monthly subscription and receive a box of pork in return.
One share is equal to three kilograms of pork each month, with initial deliveries going out next month, Mrs Croker said.
“The idea is to get that commitment from people up front and that gives us some more security in knowing we’ve sold six months of product, but it also allows them a lot closer connection with us,” she said.
Known as the “wagyu of pork”, Berkshire meat is famed for its fat coverage and marbling, Dr Croker said.
“They produce more marbled meat with a darker, richer colour, so you have a lot of that old pork characteristic and flavour about it. It has a nice taste and is firmer in texture,” he said.
Fork It Farm Berkshires are butchered into a range of cuts and smallgoods, such as sausages, ham, bacon, salami, roast, loin chops, bellies, mince, shoulders and pork fillet.
“Rob Perry at Casalinga does all our butchering and makes our smallgoods for us. He does a great job,” Dr Croker said.
“We try to get as much as we can out of the carcase. We don’t like wasting anything.”
“Part of the reason we went CSA was to try and encourage people to use the hocks and the less popular cuts. They get a mixed box,” Mrs Croker said.
Berkshires are well suited to the North-East Tasmanian hills, where they are able to dig, root around and turn over the paddocks.
“These are an older breed so they’re a slower growing breed that are definitely better suited to an outdoor, free-range environment,” Dr Croker said.
Their diet is supplemented with a daily ration of apples from Lee’s Orchard at Dilston and various crops.
“We just pick [the apples] up by the crate and it works well for us and for [Brendon Morrison],” he said.
“We are also experimenting with other crops we can grow in there for the pigs, like turnips. They just move the manure back into the soil so we can make it as ecologically friendly as possible.”