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Dave Roepke, Published March 05 2010

Teens find market for organic pork

In some families, the kids beg for a dog. In the Trangsrud clan, it was the parents who asked their sons to tend to the animals. And, oh, it was hogs instead of dogs.

The Trangsruds’ teenage boys – 18-year-old Erik and 16-year-old Jared – took to the task, raising their own organic pork for the past four years on the family’s farm near Enderlin, N.D.

“It teaches them a few things about responsibility,” said the boys’ father, Owen Trangsrud.

It also taught them a marketing lesson or two. Working with Moorhead’s Doubting Thomas, also an organic operation, the two teenage Trangsruds have sold their pork to the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo over the past two years.

Erik Trangsrud said at first, the plan was just to sell the meat to neighbors. Connecting with the HoDo was icing on the cake.

“To actually say you got it to a restaurant is pretty cool,” he said.

Both boys said they were initially skeptical when it was suggested they take over their own animals.

“It really wasn’t something I always dreamed of,” Jared Trangsrud said.

But Jared said he soon found he enjoyed the extra responsibility.

“It gives me a sense of, you know, I’m in charge of them,” he said.

About five months later, they weigh in at 250 to 300 pounds, Erik Trangsrud said.

Unlike confinement units where swine are stuck in cloistered pens, the hogs the boys raise forage in fenced-in pasture areas. The pasture areas typically start out covered by weeds and grasses.

“By the time they’re done, it’s all dirt,” Erik Trangsrud said. “They love going for the roots.”

Their father said that can draw some stares at times. Seeing hogs roaming free by their fence line near the road, passers-by by have come up their driveway to park and gawk more than once.

“You very rarely see a hog outside a building these days,” he said.

The teenagers also raise grass-fed beef, though their herds are still small and they haven’t sold any yet. They’re waiting for the weather to warm up before getting the next round of piglets, having realized the animals don’t grow well in the winter cold.

Neither boy is ready to commit to being a full-time farmer when he grows up. They both say they plan to go to college and will keep their options open, though taking over the family operation is a possibility.

If they do go that route, they’ve got themselves off to an especially early start.

When the HoDo hosted a producers’ dinner for many of its local food providers, the Trangsruds stood out among the eight or nine farmers who turned out, Jared Trangsrud said.

“We were the youngest,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535