Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
What makes a pig a heritage hog? It's got history. Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, which is supplying swine to the Heritage Hog Roast, raises a crossbreed of a Berkshire and a Red Wattle. The Berkshire breed's origin story may be apocryphal — supposedly Oliver Cromwell's army discovered it 350 years ago during the English Civil War — but there's little doubt the royal family maintained a large herd of Berkshire hogs outside of Windsor Castle in the 19th century. Cody Hopkins, co-owner of Falling Sky, said Berkshires are popular because of their "high meat quality." Little is known about the history of the Red Wattle breed — named for the two hanging fat deposits on either side of the hog's neck — beyond the fact that it comes from a herd of hogs found in the woods of East Texas.
Like most wild hogs, Falling Sky's pigs spend most of their days foraging in the woods, defoliating briars, digging up roots and feasting on nuts. Hopkins rotates them through different parts of his forested acreage with electric fences.
Hopkins, 33, and his wife Andrea Todt, 28, started Falling Sky in 2007. Todt grew up outside of Marshall. Hopkins is from Van Buren. Both went off to college to get bachelor degrees not directly related to farming (Todt to Earlham College in Indiana for a degree in outdoor education, Hopkins to Hendrix for a physics degree). After a couple of years teaching in the Northeast, Hopkins missed rural Arkansas and decided to return home. He said he wanted to get involved with the community and considered returning to school for an MBA, but decided, after seeing farmers across the country have success with direct-marketed livestock farms, "that real economic development would be to do something like that here and spread the good food movement in rural Searcy County."
He and Todt own 168 acres and lease another 80. They raise turkeys, chickens, laying hens, pigs and cattle. Unlike most livestock farmers in Arkansas who work on contract with Tyson or sell to a stockyard, Falling Sky sells all of its meats directly to consumers and restaurants. Nearly all of it goes to Little Rock and Conway, Hopkins said. Forty percent goes to restaurants, another 40 percent to a meat share Falling Sky operates and the other 20 percent to farmers markets and online sales.
Falling Sky employs 10 people (aside from Hopkins and Todt). "There's a lot of talk about how great farms like ours are in how we treat animals," Hopkins said. "But farms like us can really have an economic impact in rural communities. We're constantly growing and looking to make these jobs full time."
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