MORE THAN £1,000 WORTH OF BACON
England’s First Farm Pig Club
Celebrates its First Birthday
From a Special Correspondent
Reproduced from articles in Farmers Weekly May 1942
DURING the last week in April, the workers on a group of Wiltshire farms celebrated the first birthday of their pig club. It was the first farm pig club to be formed, and the other day I went down to the rolling country outside Marlborough to see how the men felt about their venture, and whether they proposed to carry on for another year.
There seemed no doubt about the answer to that. In these first twelve months the men have produced enough bacon—after selling half of it to the Ministry of Food—to provide each of the 69 households with something like 3 lbs. of bacon a week. And this has been produced largely on kitchen and garden waste, together with a small allowance ‘of meal from the Small Pig Keepers’ Council.
Principal motive force behind his movement is the men’s employer, Mr. Frank Swanton, whose five farms in Overton and Fyfield cover about 4,000 acres of down and valley. Mr. Swanton milks 300 cows and is a well-known pig and sheep breeder, but what is more to the point, he understands that a man cannot work without a good solid meal under his belt.
Food Going Begging
” It’s like this,” he said to. me, ” your farmworker never goes near a restaurant or canteen, where town workers can get an unrationed dinner of meat. All he has is his weekly household ration of meat—shortly to go down to Is. a head—plus a little extra cheese. But his work is as hard as anyone’s, especially with a larger arable acreage and fewer men to work it. Then there was a lot of good swill going begging in these villages. So we put the two together and formed a pig club.”
Mr. Swanton gave his men a good start by allowing them the use of one of his pighouses, empty because of a reduction in his own herd. Then he let them fix up an outside boiling tank connected with the dairy steamer. Every week the men fill eight old 17-gallon churns with swill collected in the villages, and this is scalded, mixed with the meal allowance and fed to the pigs under the supervision of Will Smith, Mr. Swanton’s own pig-man and a committee member.
The pigs are all bought as stores—mostly Large White X Saddleback—from Mr. Swanton, who lets them go at a little under the market rate.
The club is run on co-operative lines, i.e., the pigs are owned by the club. Although 80 people are working on the farms there are only 69 ” members,” for a household cannot have more than one member.
An excellent system of distribution has been arranged. A killing takes place every six weeks and members draw a quarter as and when they are entitled to it. Arthur Wise, who is Mr. Swanton’s mechanic, and is the member of the pig club committee who superintends the collecting of swill and the transport of pigs to the bacon factory. explained to me that if a man had his whole pig at once, it would be a full year before some of it was used, and it might very well go a little off colour in that time.
But by their scheme, a man having two pigs would have eight quarters at intervals of about 6 weeks, thus ensuring that the meat is eaten up quickly and full use is made of every pound. To even things out members take a hindquarter and a forequarter alternately.
In addition to a payment of a subscription of £1 per pig, members ” pay ” a flat rate of 9d. a lb. for their bacon, and in the first twelve months they have ” bought ” 10,1861/2 lbs. at a
total cost of £381 19s. 10d. In fact, of course, no ” sale ” takes place except to the Ministry of Food, since the pigs belong to the club and members cannot sell to themselves. The arrangement is one of convenience to ensure equity. 79 pigs sold to the Ministry of Food—one pig must be so disposed of for every one eaten—have realised £629. All these figures were given me by Miss H. Radmore, who, as secretary of the club, looks after the books and accounts.
Several farmers have mentioned to me their fear that if their workers started pig keeping they might be tempted to help themselves to feeding stuffs. I asked Mr. Swanton about this and he said : ” That’s one of the reasons why a co-operative club is preferable to a pig owners’ club, where the pigs are owned and kept separately. When the pigs are shared in common there is no incentive to take meal for one’s own private gain.”
Only one young pig has been lost in the year, and some excellent carcases have been turned out, All the members I spoke to were highly enthusiastic and hoped that it would be possible to carry on indefinitely. If they had one small complaint it was that the bacon factory had latterly decided to retain the offals, charging 15s. a carcase instead of £1 for curing. As the members pointed out, the offals were worth much more than 5s. to them as food.
The Minister of Agriculture has expressed a desire for many more farm workers’ pig clubs. To form a club is not difficult. Members are expected to be active participants in club affairs, as privileges of membership are in the nature of a reward for work done.
Most farm workers’ clubs are run on a co-operative basis ; but if a number of individuals wish to keep a pig on their own premises, a “Pig Owners’ ” club may be formed.
Information, registration forms and advice may be obtained from :
THE SMALL PIG KEEPERS’ COUNCIL,
THE BARN, TURVILLE HEATH, HENLEY-ON-THAMES, OXON