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edible Monterey Bay Winter 2016

HOME ON THE RANGE CALIFORNIA KUROBUTA How a Hollister family bet its farm on a pig and wound up raising world-class pork BY ROSIE PARKER • PHOTOGRAPHY BY LARRY GERBRANDT “You can never outrun an angry sow.” is is one of the many things Jack Kimmich will tell you he has learned since he and his family saved their San Benito County farm by starting their acclaimed California Kurobuta, one of the state’s few sources for pasture-raised Berkshire pork. In 1998, the Kimmichs bought 16 acres of organic farmland in Hollister. At the time, there was no plan for pigs. Jack was working construction and running a landscape supply company, Soils To Grow LLC, which specializes in making compost and soil amendments. e company eventually expanded to include trucking and equipment services and is still in operation today. But after an injury forced Jack to undergo back surgery, he was told he couldn’t return to construction. With Sara also battling cancer, the family came under financial strain and their bank threatened to take the farm. “e prospect of losing our family farm to the bank provided a strong incentive for us to pool our family’s strengths and talents,” says Sara, who herself grew up on a farm. So the family thought hard about what to do, and the Kimmichs’ youngest daughter, Katie, then just 12 years old, suggested getting a pig. After much research, they decided that purebred Berkshire pigs were the only option for their family. Berkshire is an English heritage breed that was developed more than 300 years ago in the United Kingdom’s Berkshire County. e premium pork Berkshires produce is renowned for its marbling, tenderness, juiciness, deep color and rich flavor. e term kurobuta— which chefs commonly use to refer to the meat—comes from Japan (kurobuta means “black pig” in Japanese), where it is the most highly prized pork, comparable to Kobe beef in reputation. As farm animals, Berkshire pigs are hardy, and their black coats and hair allow them to adapt to varying weather conditions. ey also have friendly dispositions—unless you get in between a sow and her piglet, as Jack will tell you. In fact, Berkshire sows are 26 edible MONTEREY BAY WINTER 2016 known for being wonderful and fiercely protective mothers who rarely need the interference of their owners. “ey are so smart, but they are also willful and very strong,” Sara says. Growing to between 500 to 800 pounds, “they certainly aren’t like training a lapdog,” she adds. Purebred Berkshire pigs are also relatively rare on the West Coast. When the Kimmich family started their pig project in 2010, there were only seven Berkshire pig owners in the state of California, and only four of them were willing to sell.


edible Monterey Bay Winter 2016
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