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›› yvonne rieck Sandy River Pork Farm

By Pam Wiley


vonne and Walter Rieck of Pittsylvania County traditionally sit down to a pork roast supper on New Year’s Day. “It’s just a German thing,” Rieck said of eating pork for luck on Jan. 1, “because pigs root forward.” The Riecks operate Sandy River Pork Farm near Danville, raising 300 to 400 hogs for market annually. They sell pork products at the Danville Community Market and Historic Roanoke City Market and through the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and Homestead Creamery. They also sell beef, lamb, eggs and pasture-raised chicken. Their product line includes homemade country-style and Italian sausage, bratwurst, chorizo, pork chops, loins, ribs, fresh hams, ham steaks and sugar-cured bacon. “Sausage is our main market,” Rieck said, and business typically is steady through the holidays. “People just eat this time of year.” Married 30 years, the Riecks moved from New Jersey to their farm in Axton in 1987. They sold hogs at a livestock market in North Carolina with other independent producers until the market closed about eight years ago. At that point, Rieck said, “we wondered, ‘How much would it take to go from beginning to end?’” They’re in their seventh year of selling pork directly to consumers. To build up a customer base, “you have to go (to the farmers’ markets) every week. You have to be 14


consistent,” Rieck said. Some of the hogs they raise are born on their farm. The Riecks buy others from another local producer who raises the same kind of animals, a three-way cross of Duroc, Hampshire and Yorkshire breeds. “These animals work well in the environment we have them in,” Rieck said. The pigs are penned in partially open enclosures that allow them to feed on both grain and grass. Good genetics are important for good pork, she said. “We want a certain (animal) size. We want our hams a certain size, and we want the right amount of fat that’s going to make good sausage.” Equally important, she said, is what the pigs eat. “They need protein, and they need minerals.” The Riecks buy as much of their grain locally as they can and grind their own feed. “We try to support our neighbors, and that way we have more control over what’s in the feed,” Rieck said. “We don’t garbagefeed. They might get cucumbers out of the garden or something, but that’s it.” The result is a meat that shows up as sausage in her Thanksgiving dressing and holiday breakfast casserole and as a Christmas ham or pork shoulder. The casserole is one of the recipes shared at The Riecks’ two adult sons and 12-year-old daughter also put in requests for sausageand-cheese balls. Rieck shared the recipe from memory. When the days get colder and the holiday decorations go up, she said, “my kids just think it’s time to eat them.”

pam wiley

Pork producers ready for season [ when ‘people just eat’ ]

Yvonne Rieck of Sandy River Pork Farm said good genetics and good nutrition are key to producing good pork.

Sausage-and-Cheese Balls ingredients

1 pound uncooked pork sausage 3 cups commercial baking mix (such as Bisquick) 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix ingredients well, and shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls in a shallow baking pan and bake 13 minutes (longer if you like them crispier).

November 2011 Cultivate  
November 2011 Cultivate  

Introduced in July 2008, Cultivate is published quarterly with a focus on safe, fresh and locally grown foods and the Virginia farms that pr...