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Rearing pigs - there's 'snout' to it; GO GREEN.

Byline: By Mary Griffin ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

THIS little piggy went to market, this little piggy went to town... and these little piggies went to Marton Pig Club where the residents will care for them, cuddle them - and eventually, eat them.

The villagers of this sleepy Warwickshire community have teamed up to rear a field of organic Berkshire pigs.

A club of absolute beginners, the neighbours will take turns to feed the pigs, watch them grow and when the time comes, they'll know the full story behind their dinner.

Father-of-three Andrew Cooke hatched the plan.

He said: "I woke up with the idea about six weeks ago.

"I've had it in the back of my mind for some time that I've wanted to keep pigs.

"We tried to move to Devon to get ourselves half an acre but the market stopped us from doing that, so I suppose I thought, why not in Warwickshire?

"I wrote a letter and dropped it round to all the other houses in the village, all 200 of them, to see if anyone else was interested.

"I got back 10 or 12 replies straight away."

Now 20 households have signed up to the scheme and this week they have welcomed 10 pigs to their new home.

The age of pig club members ranges from two to 72 years old, including families, singles and retired couples, and they'll take it in turns to look after the animals.

School teacher Karen Creswell has drawn up a rota so that the amount of time each member commits to caring for the pigs matches the amount of pig they get at the end of the process.

If your shift comes once every two weeks you might get a quarter of a pig at the end.

But if you put in a day or two each week you could get half a pig or more.

And after each day's stint you pass the "piggy baton" on to the next person on the rota so they're ready to pamper the pigs the following day.

Andrew said: "It's to do with the satisfaction and enjoyment of growing your own.

"At home we grow some of our own vegetables and now we keep chickens.

"My five-year-old boy knows where a potato comes from and enjoys our own broad beans. We can pop out and see the chickens lay their eggs.

"And as well as that, this food tastes better. I defy anybody to say it doesn't.

"Anything you grow yourself has love in it as part of its ingredients.

"I know that sounds hippy but I'm far from hippy!

"I'm a 46-year-old man who wears Marks and Spencer jumpers.

"I've never kept a pig before or organised a club before in my life!

"We started with a meeting in the village hall and people came along and said they thought it was great, but we had no land to keep the pigs on.

"I make a living as a location manager for film and television so I'm practiced at finding places.

"I made some inquiries and, lo and behold, found a fabulous field within three or four minutes walking distance with a very generous land owner."

Villagers put in days of hard graft fixing up fencing before the arrival of the pigs from the farm of David Webb, president of the Berkshire Breeders Association.

And the club has helped relight community spirit in Marton.

Andrew said: "The sense of community is a brilliant byproduct.

We've got a really nice bunch of people here and I didn't know them all before I started.

"One man told me it's the first time he's felt part of the community which is lovely to hear."

But this tale can't have a happy ending for everyone involved.

Andrew has already started his search for a slaughterhouse.

He said: "When the time comes I think it will be fine, but I've never had to kill 10 animals like that before so we'll see how it is when we get there.

"The children have lots of questions.

"At the age of four and two these concepts are a bit too big to fully deal with right now.

"I think this will be a learning process for us all and we are trying it as a one-off.

"If at the end we are all still talking to one another and we agree it's been a success we'll see whether there might be a next time."

Go Green will keep you updated with the goings on at Marton Pig Club. To follow their progress week-by-week see Andrew's blog at www.pigblog.wordpress.com

CAPTION(S):

IN THE CLUB... Andrew Cooke, who first had the idea to rear pigs in the village, dishing out the animals dinner. MR291108PIGS4; ANIMAL MAGIC... Andrew Cooke and his son (far left) with some of the villagers and the pigs and (below) the organic Berkshire pigs arriving at the village field. Pictures: Mark Radford. MR291108PIGS2; MR291108PIGS3
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 8, 2008
Words:827
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