Producer/Supplier of the Year 2010

June 2, 2010

A decade ago, Dirk Keller and Bea Graf started up a little farm on Vancouver Island. Their idea was to grow berries and flowers, but things took a turn for the porcine. Why pigs? “We inherited some barns, and barns need to be filled,” says Keller, co-owner of the much-ballyhoo’d pork farm near Qualicum Beach. “So we settled on pigs. They’re smart, they’re clean, they’re stubborn—they’re a lot like us.” The couple grew up a few kilometres apart in central Germany, an agricultural area where, he says, land is considered too precious for inefficient kindness to animals; the couple was determined that their animals (40 sows, plus boars and babes) would lead a more dignified, free-range existence. Standard Whites got sunburned, so they switched to Berkshire and Hampshire breeds raised on custom grain. The resulting meat—fattier, richer—was a hard sell at first, but thanks to Refuel chef Robert Belcham’s evangelism, the past five years have been less struggle, though no gravy train. (Belcham likes the way the meat changes with the seasons, subtly suiting different dishes.) “It’s quality of life for the animals, that’s the main reason we do this,” says Keller. “Dogs look up to you. Cats look down on you. Pigs, you’re just buddies.”

 

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