Randolph County farmer using pigs to clear land for cattle pasture

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- Larry McPherson raises cattle, chicken and goats on Uwharrie Farm in Randolph County. But now, there's a new addition on the farm.

"Piggies! Piggies!" McPherson calls out to five Berkshire and Duroc breeds of pig. The animals are known for rooting small trees and eating vines and weeds.

"You couldn’t even see the ground in there," McPherson said. "They already done a lot of clearing.”

With one acre down and five more to go, the pigs will help McPherson turn an overgrown field into cattle pasture. North Carolina State Cooperative Extension Agent Sara Beth Routh says the pigs are in keeping with Uwharrie Farm's all natural practices.

"Essentially the work they are doing is on a small scale of what equipment can do," Routh said. "They are not taking off topsoil. They are breaking down the ground.”

The pig's digging will provide fertile ground for pasture land. But for the pig project to take root, Uwharrie Farm turned to Ben Paynter and the Rural Advancement Foundation International.

"We heard of raising pigs on pasture," Paynter said. "But converting forest land into pasture seem innovative to the board we put together to look at the grants that are proposed.”

The $8,000 grant from Rural Advancement Foundation International pays for fencing around the six acres the pigs are clearing. Plus the grant also covers converting a greenhouse into an animal shelter and feed storage. So when it comes to new ideas, McPherson says it's OK to go hog wild.

"There's lots of grants out there," McPherson said. "You have to apply and they have to like your idea.”