Agriculture in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas is dominated by traditional row crops such as cotton, rice, and soybeans that are produced on large-scale farms. Therefore, this demonstration-education project was designed to provide technical-assistance to aid limited-resource farmers interested in adopting a pasture-based swine management (PBSM) system. Pasture-based systems or outdoor systems, offer a relatively low-cost alternative to conventional systems, therefore, are appropriate for limited-resource farmers in the Delta.
1. Design and develop an effective training system for pasture-based swine production.
2. Provide training and technical assistance to limited-resource farmers to increase the adoption rate of pasture-based swine production in the Mississippi Delta region.
3. Provide training and technical assistance to limited-resource farmers to increase the adoption rate of pasture-based swine production in the Mississippi Delta region.
4. Assess the market potential for pasture-raised pork in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas.
5. Identify perception and acceptance of pasture-raised pork among consumers in the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas.
6. Assess the economic and social impact of pasture-based swine production the in the Mississippi Delta region.
In the first year, the major focus of the project was the establishment of a community-based demonstration site where farmers could visit to learn how to set up and operate PBSM systems. This site was constructed on land operated by the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation in September 1996. Throughout the project, presentations at ALFDC conferences, field days, and tours of the ALFDC demonstration site have provided technical information for farmers and increased the community awareness of low-cost, sustainable methods of producing pork.
To increase the scope of the community-based training and demonstration program, two private farmers in 1997 and four in 1998 were selected to serve as farmer-trainers to assist in the training of other farmers in their communities interested in PBSM systems. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was also selected in 1998 to build a PBSM demonstration site to serve farmers in the southern region of Arkansas.
Paraprofessional Training: Technical support staff evaluated farm sites and developed pasture layout plan for each farmer. Several informal workshops were conducted at the ALFDC demonstration site to provide farmers with hands-on experience in constructing farrowing huts with electrical fencing and pastures. Because each of these farms are small-scale based on industry standards, a specific management plan was provided to encourage cooperation among farmers and uniformity in management. Farmers were visited frequently to provide assistance and assess their development progress in the PBSM systems. Periodically, meetings of the farmer-trainers were held at the ALFDC so they could discuss among themselves problems and strategies for solving individual problems.
Market research was conducted during 1998 by Arkansas State University to determine consumer perception and preferences for pasture-raised pork. A mail questionnaire was designed and sent to a sample population that was randomly selected from 1,200 consumers, 42 supermarkets and restaurants located in 12 agricultural districts in the Delta region of Arkansas and the cities of Little Rock and Memphis, TN.
Using the USDA Forest Service computer-based IMPLAN (Impact Modeling and Planning) system that is capable of estimating regional and county level data on inter-firm and industry economic impact, the market survey estimated the direct, indirect, and induced effects of pasture-raised pork operations and value-added activities of a prospective limited-resource farmer on the economy of the Delta area of Arkansas. Data used for the analysis was based on projected pork production and value-added activities of a single farmer and 1997 industrial relationship data of twelve a districts selected from the Delta area of Arkansas.
The ALFDC demonstration site has been a valuable resource not only to train farmers but to demonstrate that a PBSM system can be constructed and operated using resources available in the Delta. Furthermore, the ALFDC demonstration site has allowed the technical support group to acquire management techniques and information that can be passed on to farmers thus preventing them from making costly mistakes.
Six farmers were selected to establish PBSM systems and to serve as farmer-trainers. In addition, another demonstration site was developed at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff The establishment of these farms has increased the scope of the community-based training program and awareness of how to produce pork using low-cost, sustainable methods. Production data generated from all farms will be summarized and used in developing educational materials for limited-resource farmers.
Market survey results. The results of this survey indicated the existence of a market niche for pasture-raised pork products among urban consumers. About 39% of the consumers in rural agricultural districts in Arkansas and almost 70% of urban consumers who responded to the survey showed preference for “environmentally friendly” pork products over conventional ones. Over 73% of the surveyed population identified pasture-raised pork as natural and healthy. Sixty-five percent of retailers surveyed preferred to sell locally and organically grown meat products if available at premium prices
The IMPLAN analysis estimated the total output produced by other sectors in the Delta to support a small-scale (producing 240 market hogs annually) pasture-raised pork operation. Results indicated that for each dollar of output directly produced by a swine farmer, there will be $2.17 of further output and activities created, and for each person directly employed within the sector there will be 2.45 people employed in the Delta economy through indirect and induced effects.
Impact of Results
Technical assistance and training programs. Funding for this project has helped fill a technical assistance gap in the Delta by providing technical information and assistance to limited-resource farmers interested in PBSM systems. Furthermore, limited-resource farmers now have the means of obtaining information about PBSM not only from the ALFDC and ASU, but from fellow farmers that were involved in this project. The cooperative efforts of the ALFDC, ASU, UAPB, and farmer-trainers have allowed the development of a community-based technical assistance program. Furthermore, farmer-to-farmer networking that is developing will enable farmers to become less dependent on the technical staff for advice and problem solving.
Market survey and cost-benefit analysis. This market survey did not provide cost-benefit analysis information to help prospective farmers determine the minimum number of hogs, acreage, methods, and inputs needed to viably evaluate the potential of the alternative pasture-raised pork production practices. However, it has provided the baseline information about consumers concerns, preferences and extent of market that exists for these products in the Delta area. The research has also provided the market window analysis for prospective limited-resource farmers to evaluate potential profitability and important market information and risk assessment necessary for them to confidently consider expanding or diversifying beyond the demonstration level and further incorporating a transition to sustainable practices into their farm operations.
More important than the increase in farm income and employment is the increased economic activity in rural economies of the Delta area that would support services and improve the quality of life available to farm and non-farm families. The pasture-raised pork operations would require services from direct supporting industries such as utilities, transportation, packing, production equipment, etc. A relatively high proportion of production cost would go to labor and local resources, generating a significant demand for consumer goods and services in the Delta region. Furthermore, increased profitability of production and marketing, combined with support and secondary activities, would generate a rural equity and tax base to support education and local government services.
The objectives of this project were to:
1. Evaluate various designs for pasture-based swine production and selection of design(s) adaptable to the Mississippi Delta region.
2. Develop an effective training system to increase the number of limited-resource farmers with technical knowledge of pasture-based swine production.
3. Provide training and technical assistance to limited-resource farmers to increase the adoption rate of pasture-based swine production in the Mississippi Delta region.
4. Assess the market potential for pasture-raised pork in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas.
5. Identify perception and acceptance of pasture-raised pork among consumers in the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas.
6. Assess the economic and social impact of pasture-based swine production in the Mississippi Delta region.
Agriculture in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas is dominated by traditional row crops such as cotton, rice, and soybeans that are produced on large-scale farms. Many limited-resource farmers that are engaged in the production of these row crops are increasingly finding it very difficult to operate efficiently because they lack the necessary resources to achieve economies of scale in production. It is therefore essential that they consider alternative farming and marketing approaches to significantly improve their performance (Brown et al., 1992). Unfortunately, limited-resource farmers lack knowledge about feasible alternative enterprises, markets, production practices, and financial resources necessary to bring about a desired change (Rogers and Dagher, 1989). Therefore, limited-resource farmers willing to adopt alternative enterprises must be provided with the technical assistance needed to learn new skills, secure credit, and conduct their new enterprises profitably in order to minimize risks and avoid failures. As global competition for row crops increase, and consumer food preferences change, rural communities will need a continuing stream of technical assistance and knowledge on how to compete in the production and marketing of new value-added products that require less resources. One of such value-added products is pasture-raised pork that has sparked a market niche in Minnesota (Cramer, 1990). Some of these pork products have been marketed under the USDA-approved “Pastureland Farms” label (i.e., the meat comes from pigs that are free to roam about on pasture, without sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics and sulfa drugs). These pasture-raised pork operations have transformed the rural communities where they are located, and can serve as models for other communities. The impact of pasture-raised pork on rural development is therefore a critical issue to sustainable agriculture and can expand economic opportunities of limited-resource farmers in rural communities of eastern Arkansas.
Although total-confinement systems have contributed largely to a steady supply of affordable pork, they are capital-intensive which make it difficult for limited-resource farmers and/or small-family farmers to produce pork in this manner. Also, raising livestock in confinement has become a sensitive issue with many members of our society due to problems associated with sustainable methods of handling animal waste, and animal-care issues that are primarily related to swine being housed in confinement facilities that restrict movement and interaction between pigs. An alternative to total-confinement for pork production, is to utilize new technologies to intensify sustainable pork production outdoors.
When compared with confinement systems, pasture-based swine production systems possess specific advantages in terms of being sustainable farming systems, and require low capital inputs. For an example, confinement systems require buildings and equipment that may cost from $2,500 to $3,500 per sow, while new technology outdoor systems have been built in the range of $650 to $750 per sow (Anonymous, date unknown). Other low-capital strategies for producing pork outdoors have been reported to have a $70 to $85 per sow investment in huts, feeders, waterers, and fencing (Cramer, 1990). Furthermore, outdoor systems do not require high-operating and maintenance costs, the use of fossil fuels for heating buildings, lagoons for holding animal waste, and confinement of animals on concrete. However, intensive outdoor systems are not unlike confinement systems in that they are designed to maximize output per sow, but are fundamentally different in the methods used to accomplish this goal. A low-investment system of swine production has other economic advantages. Pork producers are able to easily down-size or expand depending on prevailing market conditions. Producers raising hogs in confinement cannot afford to let their facilities idle during economic slow time due to high-investment and maintenance cost associated with these systems. Furthermore, an outdoor system should have a positive social impact on the community, especially with members that are sensitive to the methods used for the production of pork in confinement.
Thornton (1990) has described the use of an outdoor system for pork production as a component of an arable rotation. Manure from the swine can improve soil structure and tilth and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers (Thornton, 1990; Clanton, 1991; Honeyman, 1991). And because most systems are designed to be fully portable (fencing, housing, waterers, feeders, etc.), it can be moved to other sites that would benefit from manure as a soil amendment.
Adoption of an outdoor system for producing pork by limited-resource and/or small-family farmers in the Delta of eastern Arkansas should provide them with a system that can provide diversification and integration of crop and livestock production, year-round employment for the farmer, and value-added livestock as the farm’s major output (Honeyman, 1991). Therefore, a main goal of this project was to improve the economic well-being of limited-resource farmers and thus their quality of life.
Approaches for completing Objectives 1, 2 and 3.
In 1995, two successful outdoor swine operations in southern Missouri were visited by project coordinators and potential swine producers to gain knowledge how to successfully design a PBSM system. These tours provided information on low-cost hut designs, electric fencing, pasture layouts, feeding, water management, and markets. Information was also obtained from various publications that describe similar systems in the mid-western United States and in the United Kingdom. Information sheets were developed and made available to interested clientele at various farmer meetings, field days, and conferences held at the ALFDC.
A major focus of the project was the establishment of a community-based demonstration site where farmers could visit to learn how to set up and operate PBSM systems. This demonstration site was developed on land owned by the ALFDC and has been used in various ways to train farmers and increase the awareness in the Delta region about low-cost swine production systems. The design requirements included: 1) a farm size and layout appropriate for limited-resource farmers in the region being served, 2) using materials that were easily acquired and affordable for limited-resource farmers in the region being served, and 3) using housing designs that did not require high-level construction skills and tools not common to most limited-resource farms. The ALFDC demonstration site was completed by September 1996 and stocked with 13 sows and one boar in time for ALFDCs annual conference. During this conference, several tours were conducted which helped to increase the awareness about PBSM systems. Most of the first year of the project was spent developing the site and conducting field days and tours for interested farmers.
Description of the ALFDC Demonstration Farm
Approximately 4 acres of land was selected that was well-drained. The soil was prepared and sowed with KY 31 tall fescue. The site was then fenced and cross-fenced using two-strands of electric wire (12.5 gauge, high tensile). The pasture layout was designed to include 10 to 12 paddocks (about .33 to .40 acres each). At the time of this report, there are six usable paddocks on each side of an access lane (12-ft. wide). Hogs are moved to different paddocks for three main reasons: 1) to accommodate different stages of the production cycle (breeding, gestation, farrowing, etc.), 2) to allow previously grazed paddocks to rest and recover from the effects of animal grazing, trampling, and rooting, and 3) to limit graze hogs on high nutritive value forage crops. More land area is available if expansion is desired.
An eight-inch irrigation well was used as a water source because it was already available on the land. This was not an ideal water source, but did provide a rapid method of filling hog wallows during periods of drought. The eight-inch well was fitted with an adapter connected to both a 6-inch line that supplies a pond, and a 2-inch line that supplies the storage tank used for drinking water. Water flows from the tank by gravity through 0.75-inch flexible hose that runs above the ground to individual 50-gallon barrels that were equipped with floats and paddle-type automatic watering devices. The barrels rest on wooden pallets and can be easily moved to different paddocks if necessary.
Breeding stock used at the ALFDC were Hampshire-Yorkshire and Hampshire-Yorkshire-Landrace sows that were bred to Duroc boars. One Yorkshire boar was purchased to mate with sows to produce replacement gilts. These gilts could be used at the ALFDC or sold to other farmers. As of November 1998, there have been three farrowings at the ALFDC site and the fourth is planned to occur during December 1998.
Sows at the ALFDC farm have been farrowed using two types of hut designs (see Appendix A). One type is a Quonset-style that is wooden with a sheet-metal, fiberglass-insulated roof . This design was constructed from plans obtained form Mark Newman, an outdoor swine producer in Myrtle, MO. The second design constructed with plywood is a modified-A frame design with no insulation. This design was modified from plans obtained from the University of Illinois. All new materials were used to construct these huts with each costing approximately $150. These two huts were chosen based on research reports that have shown that sows farrowing in similar designs crushed less of their pigs as compared with sows farrowing in other designs (Honeyman, 1995). Also, cost and materials and tools required for construction were considered when selecting these designs. Both of these huts have worked well at the ALFDC farm and can be built with hand tools common to most farms.
Swine at the ALFDC farm grazed a combination of forage crops which included; annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), sorghum-Sudan grass (Sorghum bicolor), and purple-hull peas. Forages comprised about 40 to 60% of the sow gestation diets which resulted in significant feed cost savings. The amount of grain and protein feeds offered to sows were adjusted based on forage quality, forage availability, body condition, and stage of gestation. Without pasture during gestation, sow received 5 lb daily of a complete feed, with pasture, sows received 3 lb daily. Free choice mineral was also provided during the heavy grazing period.
Development of a farmer-to-farmer training program.
To increase the scope of our training and technical assistance program for PBSM, two farmers in 1997 and four in 1998 were selected to serve as farmer-trainers to assist in the training of other farmers in their communities interested in PBSM systems. The criteria for selection of all farmers included: 1) site location, 2) past experience with swine, 3) and willingness to adopt PBSM practices. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was also selected in 1998 to build a PBSM demonstration site to serve as a component of their Small Farm Outreach program. The farmer-trainers were provided with partial funding and technical assistance to setup a pasture-based system on their farms.
Because each of these farms are extremely small-scale (average 15 sows farrowing per year) based on industry standards, a specific management plan was provided to each farmer that would encourage cooperation among farmers and uniformity in management. The management plan stressed buying breeding stock and feed from the same sources, following a designated breeding and vaccination schedule, and adhering to certain guidelines with respect to forage management. Similar genetics and a synchronized breeding was especially important so that farmer could combine their pigs and achieve a large, uniform group of pigs that will command a better price when sold in conventional markets.
Paraprofessional Training Farmer sites were evaluated and a pasture layout plan and recommendations were developed by the technical support staff for each farmer. Several informal workshops were conducted at the ALFDC demonstration site to provide farmers with hands-on experience in constructing farrowing huts. All participants were provided plans for huts, materials list, and costs estimates. Training was also given on how to install electric fencing and watering systems, and establish pastures.
Farm visits were also a major part of the training program. Farms were visited frequently to provide assistance and assess the progress farmers were making on developing their PBSM systems. The amount of assistance varied with the farmers experience. Some of the more experienced farmers assisted less-experienced farmers with the development of their sites as well. Periodically, meetings for the farmers were held at the ALFDC so they could discuss among themselves problems and strategies for solving the problems.
Approaches to completing Objectives 4 and 5.
Market research was conducted during the third year (1997-1998) of the project by Arkansas State University. Because accurate description of market opportunities and consumer preferences of pasture-raised pork products must precede thoughtful research analysis, the focus of the market survey was both descriptive and analytical. The study randomly selected a sample of 1,200 consumers, 42 supermarkets and restaurants from 12 agricultural districts in the Mississippi Delta area of Arkansas and the cities of Little Rock and Memphis for mail-order interview. The twelve agricultural districts are:
12. St. Francis
A mail questionnaire was designed and sent to the sampled population. The questionnaires for the survey were pilot tested on 7% of the targeted population and changes were made to the questionnaire before used in the actual survey.
While non-respondent consumers were followed up with telephone interviews, personal interviews were used for non-respondent restaurants and supermarkets. Drawing mainly on data derived from the questionnaire surveys on the sampled population, the study employed statistical packages to analyze and describe the data relevant to market opportunities, consumer perception and preferences for pasture-fed hog products. Many of the results from the study are of wide relevance and significance for market opportunities of pasture-fed hog products in the Mississippi Delta in particular and the entire nation in general.
The total value received by limited-resource farmers from pasture-raised pork production is only a partial measure of the entire value that this production can create in the Delta economy. Additional economic activities are created if further value is added to the live swine before they are sold as pork products. In the Delta area, value can be added to pasture-raised pork by slaughtering, packaging and processing before marketed. These value-adding activities involve the hiring of local people. In turn, and by spending their incomes, these workers create further economic activities in the Delta economy.
The value of all economic activities generated from pasture-raised pork production, slaughtering and packing them for sale is defined as the direct impact of pasture-raised pork production in the Delta’s economy. This represents an initial impact on the economy of the Delta area. In producing and adding value to pasture-raised pork, limited-resource farmers, packers, retailers and restaurants will purchase supplies and services from other sectors of local economy of the Delta area. The value of the economic activities generated by local firms supplying these supplies and services is defined as the indirect impact to Delta’s economy. The value of goods and services purchased by employees of pasture-raised swine producers, local packers, retailers etc. is defined as the induced impact to the economy of the Delta area. These induced effects represent changes in the household spending patterns caused by changes in employment (Olson and Lindall, 1994) from the pasture-raised pork production and value-added activities. The total economic impact from pasture-raised pork production can therefore be measured by observing the direct, indirect and induced effects in the Delta economy. The direct and indirect effects are together called the primary effect. Using input-output analysis, this market survey estimates the direct, indirect, and induced effects of pasture-raised pork production and value-added activities of a prospective limited-resource farmer on the economy of the Delta area of Arkansas. The input-output analysis employed in this study uses the USDA Forest Service computer-based IMPLAN (Impact Modeling for Planning) system that is capable of estimating regional and county-level data on inter-firm and industry economic impact. These data used for the analysis is based on projected pork production and value-added activities of a single limited-resource farmer and 1997 industrial relationship data of nine agricultural districts selected from the Delta region of Arkansas. It is estimated in the project that a limited-resource farmer is capable of handling 15 sows in a year. If each of the sows can produce on average 16 pigs a year and if the total output of 240 pigs are sold at the prevailing 1997 average price of $80, the total output value is estimated at $19,200.
This project was designed primarily to provide technical assistance to limited-resource farmers on low-input, sustainable swine management systems. These systems feature low-investment costs, portability, and grazing to lower feed cost; therefore, they are appropriate for limited-resources farmers and beginning farmers who may have to operate on rented land. In the Delta, because agriculture is dominated by large-scale agronomic crop farms, technology transfer programs for small-scale livestock systems were virtually nonexistent. However, funding for this project has helped fill this technical assistance gap by providing technical information and assistance to limited-resource farmers interested in PBSM systems. The adoption of a PBSM system by limited-resource farmers in the Mississippi Delta will provide diversification and integration of crop and livestock production and year-round employment.
A major portion of the funding from this grant was used to design and build a demonstration site for pasture-based swine production at the ALFDC demonstration farm. This demonstration site has served as a training facility for limited-resource farmers interested in using a pasture-based system. Also, with assistance from ASU, the ALFDC has been able to increase the scope of its technical assistance program for limited-resource farmers to include a sustainable swine production component. Farmers that have visited the ALFDC PBSM site have acquired knowledge first-hand on how to layout, construct, and manage the components of a PBSM system. We have found this facility to be a valuable resource not only to train farmers but to raise the awareness of sustainable swine systems appropriate for limited-resource farmers in the Delta. Furthermore, the ALFDC demonstration site has allowed the technical support group to learn by doing. Experiences gained from constructing and operating the ALFDC demonstration site have allowed the technical support group to acquire technical and managerial skills, and information that can be passed on and thus prevent prospective farmers from making costly mistakes. In addition, funding for this project has increased outreach opportunities for faculty in the College of Agriculture at ASU.
Funding from this project has also allowed seven other PBSM systems to be constructed in five counties in Arkansas. Six of these farms are being operated by limited-resource farmers on either land owned or rented by the farmers. The seventh farm was constructed at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (an 1890, land grant institution) which will serve as a component of their Small Farm Outreach program. These additional farms have increased the scope of a community-based training program and awareness of how to produce pork using low-capital, sustainable methods. The six privately managed operations will especially facilitate farmer-to-farmer training programs that can be administered by ALFDC and ASU staff.
Table 1 shows an estimated cost of investment to set-up the PBSM demonstration site at the ALFDC farm. These costs were based on prices in 1995. The total investment cost per sow is in line with those reported by various producers in the mid-western United States. It is assumed that labor would be provided by the farm family, therefore it was excluded from this estimate. However, the estimated cost of labor for constructing the ALFDC farm was $1,800.
A major obstacle for limited-resource farmers is the investment required to produce pork using conventional facilities. Compared to conventional facilities, buildings and equipment investment for PBSM systems are relatively small and, except for the water well, are not tied to the land, which allows rented land to be used. Being able to use rented land is especially appealing to first-generation farmers like Cleophus Mills, a farmer-trainer participating in this project.
Although most of the pork products currently sold in the Delta area are conventionally produced, most consumers in the Delta market area of Arkansas have negative perceptions on the pork products that are sold in their markets. While the Delta consumers are not so much concerned about antibiotics and fat content of conventionally-raised pork products, almost 70% of them believe that the production of conventionally-raised pork damages their environment (Table 2).
The most significant findings of the market survey into the market opportunity for pasture-raised pork in the Delta was the revelation that a market niche for pasture-raised pork products exists among urban consumers. About 39% of the consumers in rural agricultural districts and almost 70% of urban consumers who responded to the survey showed preference of environmentally grown pork products over conventional ones. Most of these urban consumers are located in cities with populations of over 20,000, including West Memphis and Little Rock. The survey also developed a weighted scoring tool to measure consumers’ attitudes and perceptions of pasture-raised pork on the basis of “no antibiotics and hormones”, “natural” “locally grown”, and “lean”. Analysis of the weighted score showed that over 73% of the surveyed population identified pasture-raised pork as natural and healthy (Table 3).
The results also indicate that “pasture-raised” pork meat represents the type of meat product that is demanded by healthy conscious urban consumers. About 73% of the urban consumers who responded to the survey questionnaire indicated they checked the shelf life of a meat product before purchasing it and half of them were wary of additives found in meat products. Thus meat products preferred by urban consumers must reflect quality traits that come from meats produced by environmentally assured producers who do not use hormones or antibiotics in their production practices.
About 65% of restaurants and grocery stores surveyed preferred to serve and sell locally and organically grown meat products if available to customers willing purchase these products at a premium price. While most of restaurants and retailers expressed concern over the lack of supply of these premium natural meat products, they differed on their preferred sources of supply. About 58% of large supermarkets and chain stores in the survey who have set up their own central meat cutting and processing facilities, prefer packers to ship natural or pasture-raised pork meat directly to their central facilities to enable them to pre-pack them and distribute to their individual grocery stores. However, small independent retailers in the survey prefer their natural pork meat to be boxed or tray-ready by packers who can break down the carcass into cuts of their choice. In each of the situation, limited-resource farmers can target the packers as major markets for their products.
About 26% of the consumers surveyed, mostly married couples in the mid forties, indicated that they would use a home delivery service to acquire these products if supplies were not available locally. These groups of consumers (23 %) will also travel once a week for an average distance of about 11 miles to buy their preferred natural or environmentally pork in bulk. Further analysis showed that the healthy conscious affluent urban market in the Mississippi Delta is not being served, and that if pasture-raised pork producers can get to one-half of this population, they will have the equivalent of a city of 80,000 plus to sell to. If each person in this city ate one pound per week of pasture-raised pork, local producers will have a guaranteed market for many years to come.
The market policy implication from the survey result is that the market for pasture-raised pork in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas is driven by consumer preferences. The consumers in this niche market are prepared to pay on average of 18.5% more for naturally grown, “environmentally-friendly” pork if they can get what they want, when they want it and how much they want. Therefore, to compete effectively, limited-resource, pasture-raised pork producers must produce a product that provides superior value to these consumers while receiving an acceptable rate of return for their products in order sustain their operations. Therefore, an assured market for pasture-raised pork products exists in the urban areas of the Delta especially with the affluent, healthy-conscious consumer that is prepared to pay a premium for these products.
Using input-output analysis, this market survey estimates the direct, indirect, and induced effects of pasture-raised pork production and value-added activities of a prospective limited-resource farmer on the economy of the Delta area of Arkansas. The input-output analysis employed in this study uses the USDA Forest Service computer-based IMPLAN (Impact Modeling for Planning) system that is capable of estimating regional and county level data on inter-firm and industry economic impact. These data used for the analysis is based on projected pork production and value-added activities of a single limited-resource farmer and 1997 industrial relationship data of nine agricultural districts selected from the Delta area of Arkansas. Based on information obtained from this project, it was estimated that most limited-resource farmers are capable of farrowing a minimum of 15 sows per year. Therefore, if each sow produces an average of 16 pigs a year and if the total output of 240 market hogs are sold at the prevailing 1997 average price of $80, the total output value was estimated to be $19,200.
The “IMPLAN” analysis estimates the total output to be produced by other sectors in the Delta area to support the $19,200 generated from one pasture-raised pork operation (indirect and induced) to be $5,513 (Table 4). Table 4 also contains multipliers for pasture-raised pork production and its associated value-added activities. The estimated total pasture-raised pork output multiplier of 3.17 means that for each dollar of swine output directly produced by a limited-resource farmers in the Delta, there will be $2.17 of further output and activities created in the Delta economy through indirect and induced effect.
The indirect and induced employment impact is calculated by multiplying the direct employment effect by one less the total employment multiplier. Table 4 estimates total employment multiplier to be 3.45 for a pasture-raised pork operation and value added activities. This means that for each person directly employed within this sector, there will be 2.45 people employed within the economy of Mississippi Delta area of Arkansas.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Work is in progress to publish the market research study in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.
Conferences and Meetings
1. Outdoor Swine Production. 14th Annual Conference of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation. Date: October 26, 1995. Place: Fargo, AR
2. Outdoor Swine Production. Alternative Opportunities in Agriculture Conference Date: January 1996 Place: University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff
3. A Small-Scale Approach to Swine Production. 15th Annual Conference of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation. Date: October 24, 1996. Place: Fargo, AR
4. Arkansas State University’s Role in Outreach to Limited-Resource Farmers. W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Date: July 25, 1996. Place: Fargo, AR
5. Pasture-Based Swine Production Integrated Farming and Food Systems Network Meeting. Date: March 22, 1997. Place: Fargo,
6.A Cooperative Effort Between ALFDC and ASU Is Increasing Opportunities for Small Farmers in the Mississippi Delta 16th Annual Conference of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation Date: October, 1997 Place: Fargo, AR
Workshops and Field Days
1. Newman Farm Tour. ALFDC and ASU technical staff and five limited-resource farmers visited Mark Newman’s outdoor swine farm in southern Missouri. At that time Mr. Newman was farrowing 400 sows outdoors in huts.
2. ALFDC Field Day (March 22, 1997). This was held in conjunction with an Integrated Farming and Food Systems meeting at the ALFDC.. Farmers were given a guided tour of the ALFDC demonstration farm. Approximately 18 farmers attended.
3. ALFDC Swine Field Day (February 28, 1998). Mark Newman and Dr. Donald Kennedy gave presentations to farmers on swine markets and pasture-based swine production. Farmers were given a guided tour of the ALFDC demonstration site. Approximately 22 farmers attended.
Numerous guided tours have been conducted at the ALFDC during conferences and on an individual basis. There were many occasions where farmers would “drop by” to take a look at the PBSM system.
Youth Education and Work Experience
Youth involved in the ALFDC YEA (Youth Enterprises in Agriculture) program helped construct and maintain the ALFDC PBSM demonstration site throughout the project. Youth built and repaired fences, helped construct and repair houses, and assisted with castrations, tattooing, and vaccinations of the stock.
Facts Sheets and Handouts
Handouts along with reference sources were distributed to farmers at field days, meetings and conferences. A packet of information was also assembled that distributed by mail to anyone interested in the project. However, most of the information dissemination has occurred during actual meetings with farmers.
A web site was developed about the project to increase the scope of information dissemination. The site provides general information on low-cost, sustainable methods of producing pork, a description of the ALFDC demonstration site, plans for farrowing huts, a list of resources, and a list of related web sites that can be accessed from the web site. This web site is located on a server at Arkansas State University. The URL for this web site is
Note: this web site is presently under construction and will be updated when necessary.
A video was developed by ASU staff that shows the construction of the Quonset-Style farrowing hut.
• Pigs on Pasture – The Gunthorp Farm. Greg and Lei Gunthorp have many good ideas
and tips. Visit their web site http://grassfarmer.com/pigs/gunthorp.html
• Tom Frantzen of New Hampton, IA has many innovative ideas on how to be successful with pasture farrowing. His experiences and are described in detail in the book , Farmers for the Future, by Successful Farming Business Editor Dan Looker. It should be available from Iowa State University Press (800-862- 6657).
• The Greenbook ‘97 contains descriptions of three different outdoor hog enterprises; Grazing Sows on Pasture, Grazing Hogs on Standing Grain and Pasture, and Butcher Hogs on Pasture. Visit the Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program page at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture web site to find out to receive this publication.
• Moorman’s Outdoor Swine Technology (MOST). Program Manual. Moorman’s, 1000 N. 30th Street, P.O. Box C1, Quincy, IL 62305-3115. Tele. (217) 222-7100.
• A Gentler Way – Sows On Pasture by farmers Dwight and Becky Ault describe experiences of several farmers that are involved with pasture farrowing. For a copy, send $4 to Dwight Ault, Rt. 1 Box 230, Austin MN 55912.
• Outdoor Pig Production. Keith Thornton. 1988. Farming Press Ipwich, U.K. (206 pages). Distributed in N. America by: Diamond Farm Enterprises, Box 537, Alexandria Bay, NY 13607. USA.
• Practical Outdoor Pig Production. VHS Color Video (approximately 40 min. running time). Farming Press Videos, Ipswich, U.K. Distributed in N. America by: Diamond Farm Enterprises, Box 537, Alexandria Bay, NY 13607. USA.
• Pasture Farrowing. PORT-A-HUT, INC. Storm Lake, IA 50588.
• An Agriculture That Makes Sense: Making Money on Hogs. Is a publication that describes a farrow- to-finish enterprise in Minnesota that pasture farrows about 50 sows in May and August. This publication also provides details on farrowing, feed costs, veterinary costs, shelter costs, and marketing. This farm’s total actual listed costs were $17.45, $14.84, and $5.89 per hundred weight lower than the average listed costs of the top performing farmers (reported in the Southeast Minnesota Farm Business Management Program Annual Report) for 1998, 1992, and 1995, respectively. For a copy of this publication write to or call: Land Stewardship Project, 2200 Fourth Street, White Bear Lake, MN 55110, (612) 53-0618.
Technical assistance and training programs.
Because the Delta is dominated by large-scale row crop farms, technology transfer programs for small-scale livestock systems were virtually nonexistent. However, funding for this project has helped ALFDC and ASU fill a technical assistance gap in the Delta by providing technical information and assistance to limited-resource farmers interested in PBSM systems.
Market survey and cost-benefit analysis.
This market survey did not provide cost-benefit analysis information to help prospective farmers determine the minimum number of hogs,
acreage, methods, and inputs needed to viably evaluate the potential of the alternative pasture-raised pork production practices. However, it has provided the baseline information about consumers concerns, preferences and extent of market that exists for these products in the Delta area.
The research has also provided the market window analysis for prospective limited-resource farmers to evaluate potential profitability and important market information and risk assessment necessary for them to confidently consider expanding or diversifying beyond the demonstration level and further incorporating a transition to sustainable practices into their farm operations.
More important than the increase in farm income and employment is the increased economic activity in rural economies of the Delta area that would support services and improve the quality of life available to farm and non-farm families. The pasture-raised pork operations would require services from direct supporting industries such as utilities, transportation, packing, production equipment, etc. A relatively high proportion of production cost would go to labor and local resources, generating a significant demand for consumer goods and services in the Delta area. Furthermore, increased profitability of production and marketing, combined with support and secondary activities, would generate rural equity and tax base to support education and local government services. This pasture-raised pork production operation is based on relatively fixed local resources. As such, the impact would be permanent, and not subject to future corporate decision to relocate.
While the potential of pasture-raised pork production with its related economic multipliers can improve the incomes of minority farmers, only limited growth has taken place in Delta area. One way to ignite the production of pasture-raised pork among limited-resource farmers is to provide information to these farmers on the existence of market for pasture-raised pork products in the Delta area. The adoption of this production practices by selected limited-resource farmers can prove to be the necessary catalyst needed by other farmers to convert portions of their farmland to pasture-raised pork production.
While this study can be replicated for other farming communities, the implication of the findings for other mono-cultural agricultural areas is clear. A budding market exist in the Delta area of Arkansas for locally produced environmentally friendly pork products and limited-resource farmers who can convert portions of their farmland to pasture-raised pork production can provide positive economic impacts or revitalize their rural economies.
Some of the services and programs that have been developed as a result of this project include:
• technical support personnel available to assist farmers with the development and operation of low-cost, sustainable swine production systems.
• demonstration sites that can be used to train and educate farmers about low-cost, sustainable swine production systems.
• a community-based, farmer-trainer program is developing that will help limited-resource farmers become more dependent upon each other and less on professional information providers (e.g., consultants, extension and university personnel).
• the development of technical literature and resources that will help educate farmers about low-cost, sustainable methods of pork production.
• market research data that can assist the technical support staff and farmers in identifying alternative markets and marketing strategies.
• a market window analysis for prospective limited-resource farmers to evaluate potential profitability and important market information and risk assessment necessary for them to confidently consider expanding or diversifying beyond the demonstration level and further incorporating a transition to sustainable practices into their farm operations.
Additional Contributions of this project:
• The project has increased the awareness of faculty in the College of Agriculture at ASU about problems and factors that limit many small-scale and socially disadvantaged farmers from being able achieve economies of scale in production in a region dominated by large-scale, specialized farms.
• The project has increased ASU College of Agriculture faculty outreach activities that will primarily serve limited-resource farmers in the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas.
• The project has strengthened cooperative efforts between ASU’s College of Agriculture and the ALFDC, a non-profit organization.
• The project has increased the awareness of social, economic, and environmental benefits of producing pork using a pasture-based approach.
• The project has increased the knowledge ASU faculty have of sustainable swine systems, which will enhance their teaching and outreach activities.
• The project has provided the framework to further develop a farmer-to-farmer network.
• The project has provided a means for youth participating in the ALFDC YEA (Youth Enterprises in Agriculture) program to gain experience working with swine and learning about sustainable swine management practices. YEA is a summer program where “at-risk” teenagers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Chicago, IL become involved in agriculture.
A highlight of this project was the cooperative effort between a non-profit organization, the ALFDC, and a non-land grant university, Arkansas State University. The primary responsibilities of the ALFDC were to provide the site for the pasture-based swine demonstration farm, manage the day-to-day operations of the demonstration farm, advertise and coordinate outreach and training activities, and provide technical assistance to farmers. The primary responsibilities of ASU were to provide technical assistance to the ALFDC and limited-resource farmers, and to develop educational materials for the project.
Cooperative efforts also exist between the two organizations previously mentioned and six paraprofessional farmers and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB). The six farmer-trainers and UAPB have agreed to operate PBSM systems on their farmers to increase the scope of the community-based training programs that will be administered by the ALFDC. Their responsibilities will include involvement in a farmer-to-farmer network, to conduct field days at their farms, to train and educate other farmers in their communities, and to provide the ALFDC with investment and production cost data that can be used in educational literature that will be developed by the ALFDC and Arkansas State University.
Areas needing additional study
Suggestions for future research:
• Identify and develop markets for specialty and value-added pasture-raised pork products.
• Test market pork products to identify consumer preferences.
• Determine cost of producing value-added products in a small-scale processing plant and cost of marketing value-added products.
• Continue to expand and provide training and technical assistance programs for pasture-based swine producers.
• Continue to organize community-based, farmer-to-farmer training programs dealing with sustainable methods of pork production and marketing.
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Cramer, C. 1990. Profitable pork on pasture. The New Farm. 12:4.
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Pasture-Based Swine Management website. http://www.clt.astate.edu/dkennedy/index.htm.
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