Our produce plots are part of our hog-pasture rotation system. When hogs are on pasture, they don’t just politely nip off the top of the plant the way sheep and cows do. They stick their noses in the ground and plow it all up so they can eat the bugs and roots as well as the leaves. This is very detrimental if you’re trying to keep a permanent pasture system functioning the way it would for cattle. Farmers attempting to keep pigs on pasture have three options. First, they can provide each pig with so much ground that the plants regrow faster than the pigs can dig them up. Since pigs are very efficient at rooting, this can require vast amounts of land. Also, the plants that tend to sprout and thrive in the disturbed areas are not grasses and legumes, but broadleaf plants of the sort typically considered weeds in pasture systems, so over time the quality of the pasture would inevitably decline. Second, you can put nose-rings on the pigs and force them to nibble the grass like sheep (because the ring hurts their nose if they try to root). We consider this an unnecessary and borderline cruel frustration of the pigs’ natural instincts. Third, you can use the pigs’ natural style of grazing to your advantage. This is what we do.We leave the pigs on each pasture plot until it is thoroughly rooted up and fertilized. Spilled and undigested grain sprouts after the pigs are moved, creating an automatic cover crop that protects the bared soil. The following year, we till the plot and plant another cover crop to further discourage weeds and build organic matter. In year three, we till in the cover crop residues and plant produce crops. In year four, we plant perennial pasture crops (orchardgrass, alfalfa, and chicory) and allow them to establish undisturbed for the entire season before starting the whole cycle over again the following year. The long wait and tillage events that come between removing pigs from the pasture and planting produce crops there ensure that there is no danger from pathogenic bacteria.