Crop Stories returns with its sixth issue, Hogs, eager to explore the sustaining yet complicated relationship the South and its farmers have with swine. By sheer numbers, the Midwest far outpaces the South in hog production—and pastured pork farmers can be found in almost every state—but pigs hold sway over the Southern imagination like no other animal or plant. Barbecue. Lard. Chitlins. Cracklins. These words retain weighty prominence in the region we’ve declared as our storytelling stomping grounds. In these pages we go further to interrogate what hogs mean to our identities and livelihoods.
In contrast to past Crop Stories, men take a more leading role as storytellers and subjects; women writers and photographers, of course, still retain their integral role as our chief correspondents. Pitmaster and scientist Howard Conyers and chef and restaurateur Mike Moore plumb their personal histories, from different experiences, to discuss the traditions of hog slaughters and barbecues and the role those events played in their respective rural communities. We meet Jon Jackson of Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia, a veteran and pasture pig farmer raising high quality hogs and creating restorative community for soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder; he is captured by photojournalist Savannah Cole. Writer Allison Leininger follows craft butcher Lee Menius and delivers a story that does not turn away from the exacting difficulties of building a sustainable food business; CROP STORIES 4 photographer Remy Martin chronicles the operation. Allison Salerno visits South Carolina row crop farmer Donnie Wakefield and inspects the havoc that feral hogs have wrecked on acres of corn and cotton. Writer Josina Guess uses family history to explain her choice to live close to the land in concert with resettled refugees in Comer, Georgia. And, finally, in a guide to seasonal hog festivals, travel writer Alison Miller chooses a few of the region’s greatest pork celebrations; just bring your love of liver mush and hickory smoke.
The stories within concern hogs, yes, but they’re clearly about who we are as Southerners, new and old, and how livestock and land define us. Telling such stories help us grow as farmers, neighbors, and keepers of flames. That’s our personal hope. Perhaps it’s yours, too.