Catoctin Mountain Farm

Deep in the Catoctin Mountains of Eastern Maryland, pigs trot around the forest, sniffing out
grubs and gobbling up acorns. A truck pulls up and two men hop out. They walk to the back of
the truck and pull out pallets of hydroponically grown barley, dumping the grass onto the earth
amid a squabble of squealing pigs. Sows, piglets, and boars eat the barley like, well, pigs, and
soon it’s all gone. The two men, Nick Meredith and Jay Smith get back in the car and drive
away; the pigs disperse to forage and frolic on the 170 acre property known as Catoctin
Mountain Farm.
Catoctin Mountain Farm has been around for about six years, but, Nick says, “a lot of that was
spent getting the breeding right. Pigs in a traditional factory setting or even the average small scale
farm are usually put into farrowing crates.” Farrowing crates are used to contain factory pigs, prevent all
contact between the mother and piglets, and require artificial insemination for reproduction. Due to these
practices, the gene for mothering is no longer necessary for pig survival; the mothering gene has been
phased out of the modern pig.
Pigs at Catoctin Mountain Farm are different. “[Factory pigs] would crush the piglets or neglect them
because that part had been bred out. I had to breed that part back in and see who did the best at adapting
to being back outside,” Nick explains, “I went to several farms, got breeding stock, and developed
my own hybrid [pig] breed to make them successful at mothering in the woods. We basically
don’t do anything inside.” There’s no need for artificial insemination at Catoctin Mountain Farm
“A problem with organic [farming],” Nick continues, “is that it’s a nice gesture the only difference
between your organic pig and conventional pig is that the feed has less pesticides in it. It’s the same cage,
the same artificial insemination, that’s it: you’re just changing the food input. Now, that’s arguably better
because it’s organic crop farmers, but it’s doing nothing for animal welfare or any of the environmental
and disease considerations. It’s like organic eggs versus pastured eggs. An organic egg is from a chicken
in a cage getting organic feed. A pastured chicken is running around eating the bugs, the whole thing.”
Pastured, an industry buzzword, doesn’t begin to describe the natural life of a pig at Catoctin Mountain
Farm. Nick calls it “woodland pork, just because we’re in the woods, but no one else does that
Pigs are temperamental. “They are the smartest animals [typically] kept in the smallest places,” says
Nick, and modern livestock eugenics bred out crucial elements of the gene pool. Pork products
from Catoctin Mountain Farm is one of the only places in the US one can find true pork. “The
meat is red, it’s just a totally different animal,” Nick says. Typically they sell whole or half pigs to
restaurants, but recently Nick and his partner Jay have started producing bratwurst, bacon, and pork
Farm to Feast Catering chose Catoctin Mountain Farm bratwurst as a specialty dish this autumn.
According to Nick, “the spice mix is just one of those off the shelf; it’s the meat that changes it. People
are always surprised what a different product it is. I was never really a fan of sausages until I tried it this
way… We’ve done taste tests. It’s indescribable.”

Nick and Jay have dedicated the practices of Catoctin Mountain Farm to the best quality of animal life
and respect for the environment. Farm to Feast aligns its mission of sustainable and locally sourced foods
with Catoctin Mountain Farm, a true leader in the vision of a humane agricultural industry. The symbiotic
nature of farm and feast are truly apparent in partnerships like these. Nick agrees, “I really think that
catering especially is an opportunity where you can support these kinds of farms. You don’t have the
volume or packaging issues you have at traditional restaurants or retail. So it’s a great opportunity for
smaller farms to get into the market. The catering industry definitely has the opportunity to go and source
the right thing.”