by Robin Schempp

As the whirl of Thanksgiving comes to a close I am ever more grateful to the farmers and food producers who have taken seriously the messages of “real bounty” from early Thanksgivings. These are the folks creating a food supply we can be proud of.

A handful of farms, ranches, and programs like the Renewing America’s Food Traditions collaboration and Slow Food’s Ark of Taste work hard at preserving biodiversity and rescuing, restoring, and promoting rare and heritage produce and livestock so that we no longer have to consider them (or that way of eating) endangered.

Sadly, the battle for a more diverse food supply just got harder for Arie McFarlen, a member of the Slow Food Ark of Taste and a friend to the RAFT coalition. News that Maveric Ranch suffered a completely devastating barn fire the week before Thanksgiving hits not only our friend hard but also the rare breeds themselves. You can read below for more details on Arie’s farm and her loss, but first: Maveric Ranch needs your help.

We share Arie’s love for rare breeds and her mission for a better food supply. Please consider doing something a little extra this holiday season for the sake of the ranch and the breeds. Hold an event, pass the hat, send a percentage of the proceeds–or just make a direct donation.

Send a check to:

Endangered Hog Foundation

Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.

47869-242nd St.

Dell Rapids, South Dakota 57022

In addition to personal and beloved family animals and the 100-year-old barn itself, McFarlen lost several rare Mulefoot hog sows and their litter of piglets, an important breeding Guinea hog boar, and an even more rare Wessex Saddleback boar (one of 11 in the U.S.) Attempts to rescue the animals were unsuccessful given the electrical fire, which burned at 2,000 degrees, was so intense it melted the metal farm implements.

They were able to release the pigs from the pens around the barn to escape the heat, however, many were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Although they are still nursing the injured animals day and night, the McFarlens continue to lose animals daily.

Although the newer barn was saved, the McFarlens lost power to the entire farm, including the ability to pump water. All the winter feed (approximately 1,000 bales of alfalfa, tools, watering troughs and feeders, buckets, piglet pens,  power cords, winter heaters, saddles and other horse gear, fencing supplies and construction materials were completely destroyed.

A note from Arie reads:

“We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save the breeds of these pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.

This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident, or disease could take another species from this planet.

Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have recieved many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and Dakota Rural Action. With all of this encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and ensure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that the biodiversity of pigs is preserved.

The Endangered Hog Foundation has been established to help us rebuild and continue work with endangered pig breeds. We intend to carry on with our DNA research, breeding program, establishing new breeders and promoting endangered pigs.

We’ve already begun the clean-up process and will begin construction of a facility to continue working with our pigs as soon as spring arrives in South Dakota. Temporary measures to provide for the pigs during the upcoming winter are underway.

We need your help. Our immediate needs are for physical labor to help with clean-up and building temporary shelter to winter the pigs. We also need to find a source of alfalfa hay square bales, to obtain portable shelter for the pigs due to farrow in early 2009, hog equipment, and hand tools.

Donations can be sent to the “Endangered Hog Foundation” in care of Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. at the address below, or visit our web page at

Thank you to everyone who has offered support. I cannot describe how it feels to stand in a place of profound grief and intense gratitude at the same time. We will carry on through the support and love of our friends.” –Arie McFarlen, PhD, Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.