Picture courtesy of Woolypigs.com
One of the things that I've seen several times is a new animal appearing on the scene that is touted as a cure for all of the ailments that farmers have. A cure-all for every affliction. If you just buy and raise this animal (at a fair profit, mind you!) this animal WILL solve all your problems!
I'm being vague about the animal, because it changes from time to time. Everyone knows that the last animal was a horrible mistake, but this new animal (or crop...) is different, the ONE TRUE animal/Crop!
Let me give you an example, from this website that would like to sell you alpacas:
"We had a visitor to our ranch the other day who had experienced a terrible financial loss in his family when they tried raising Emus & Ostriches in the 1980’s. So he was very curious about what made the alpaca investment different … since he had heard some of the same promises applied to that craze in the 1980s."
The guy loses his shirt in ostriches, and then emus, and now is looking at alpacas. Clearly alpacas are the animal that will solve his problems! He should investigate Pigeons! oh... wait. He is one!
I'm mentioning this history because I ran across this article in the detroit free press recently, that speculated that a particular breed of pigs first imported by woolypigs.com into the us, could somehow save michigans economy. The basic pitch appears to be the same for all of the other fad animals. "Get in soon, there will be a market, yes, breeders are expensive now, but you'll be able to sell the babies for thousands of dollars, and you'll be rich!"
Heath Putnam over at Woolypigs has spent years and years building a market for these very same animals. He's been pretty tireless at his dogged pursuit of chefs and people interested in mangalitsa pigs, and I have to say that I admire his business sense. He chose to start a farming venture and to all appearances has done a very good job of getting the american market to accept this pig that is fundamentally different than the american ideal of pork. But it tooks a LOT of money. Wheelbarrows of it to import the pigs, and then years of work to simultaneously breed the pigs and market them. At this point he does sell the pigs to a variety of consumers and businesses. There is a market for mangalitsa, and Heath has pretty much single-handedly created it. There is really no realistic way for a small farmer raising one or two of them, or even a dozen, to sell them into the market thats been created.
That's the diabolical part of these animal fads. You see, you're encouraged to retain all of the babies to grow your herd as fast as possible. So you won't test the market until you're fully committed, and by then it's too late.
There is no free lunch. There is no single animal that will suddenly save you. The tooth fairy .... yea.
lard pigs will save the michigan economy. You heard it here first.