New life in pigs brings rewards for Todmorden business partners

5 April 2017......        Anne McDonald and Sarah Newsome with their pigs on  Cross Gap Farm, Todmorden. Picture Tony Johnson.
5 April 2017...... Anne McDonald and Sarah Newsome with their pigs on Cross Gap Farm, Todmorden. Picture Tony Johnson.

Getting dragged through the mud as well as certain livestock output provided great hilarity as Anne McDonald clung on grimly to one of the pigs at Cross Gap Farm high above Todmorden recently.

It’s all now in a day’s work for Anne and her partner Sarah Newsome whose fledgling enterprise Piggin Delicious is bringing home the bacon.

It’s a million miles away from Anne’s previous life in Birmingham where green fields and farm animals were as rare as her experiences in the hills.

“One thing I never thought I’d be was a pig farmer and I certainly never expected to have all that stuff down my bra! It went everywhere. I was covered in it and that’s not the only thing that has happened by a long way.

“I’ve been in the pens with them and the rascals have gone between my legs and I’ve ended up riding them. Sarah and my daughter Paige think it’s hilarious. It’s always me that seems to have these incidents.”

Cross Gap Farm is home to Sarah’s parents Tony and Kath Newsome. Tony farms in partnership with his brother Trevor and they have a dairy herd and sheep. Sarah milks the dairy herd mornings and evenings but was determined to have some stock of her own. There was also a modicum of her father’s disbelief that urged her on.

“I wanted pigs. I remember dad having them when I was younger and Anne was keen. We wanted to have animals because we like them but also wanted to start our own business.

“Dad kept saying I’d never do it and I told him I’d prove him wrong and that Anne and I would have our own pigs one day. He had space that wasn’t being used, I told him I’d clear it, fence it, buy everything I would need. We then signed up for a holding number.

“Two years ago we bought our first pigs from a girl I know locally who raises them and we took them through to six months, feeding milk, vegetables and corn. We started up a Facebook page advertising either half or quarter pigs and had an immediate response. It worked! We were under way.

“We now take them to six months for pork and nine months for bacon and sausages.”

While both girls work together with the pigs, which are Large Whites, because of her farming background Sarah is more the farmer with Anne providing the business edge, as well as the humour.

“Three months in advance I publicise when our next halves of pig will be ready and take a deposit. We get customers from Manchester and Leeds as well as the local area and the feedback we’ve had has been brilliant. Our customers tell us the taste is outstanding and pork is like it used to be. That’s because we don’t put anything into them apart from goodness.”

Sarah has been raised on the farm and knows all about life and death of farm animals, but that still doesn’t mean she and Anne are fully hardened to the nature of the business they have set up just yet.

“We will have to toughen up a bit more. We used to cry when we went to the slaughterhouse with our pigs and we’ve just had two lambs from some Texel ewes we bought from market.

“The lambs were supposed to be heading to market at some stage but I don’t think these two will be going as they’re our first, they are cute and so we’re going to keep them and hopefully breed from them.”

Sarah and Anne have tried other pig breeds and Sarah would like to try the Mangalitsa but only in addition to the Large White.

“We’ve found others to either be too fatty or lean but quite small or short in length. The Large White is a good all-rounder. They give a lot of meat and that bit of fat that brings out the full flavour.”

Chickens and beef cattle are also on the Piggin Delicious agenda for the future as the girls look to expand.

“We’d like to get our brand into restaurants and supermarkets,” says Anne, who combines her time on the farm with working for social services, looking after a lady until 1.30pm every day.

“That’s our next level, but we’re also really happy with what we’ve done so far. We love offering our customers the opportunity to come up here with their families and collect their produce, as well as seeing our pigs.

“I’m really keen on having some chickens. They will probably be French as I’m reading up on them at the moment and they’re meant to be nice and tasty. That’s what we want from all our meat. Sarah would like us to have Highland cattle.

“We’ll probably start with a couple maybe next year.

“The most important part of all this to us is that while we want it to become a successful brand for years to come we also want our livestock to live in a stress-free, free range environment where they can have a good life.”