Living high on the hog is an understatement for the beasts that roam the over 1200 acres of Mark and Kasia Fortune’s family farm in Laurel Hill, Florida, dating back to the 1800’s. Mark says, “Though the property has been in my family for many generations, Big Creek Farm was just a seed planted fifty years ago when I was given two orphan piglets. They went fishing with me every morning, and became my constant companions. Ever since then, I have had a great appreciation for pigs and their inquisitive personalities.”
After 19 years of commercial fishing in Alaska, Mark returned home to to his farming roots, and now has one of the largest herds of Heritage Tamworth hogs in the United States. He chose to raise this particular breed for its taste, leanness, and exceptional nutritional value. The Tamworth’s can take up to a year to reach maturity, and while doing this, are free to roam and graze from field to field on the magnificent foliaged lined property, that is divided by a flowing stream showcasing a sandy bottom on one side, and clay on the other.
Mark says, “Our farm was named after Big Creek that runs a few miles west of Laurel Hill. It is fed by hundreds of artesian springs, and roams through the entire farm. Our hogs drink from the many artesian springs that feed the creek.”
The Fortune’s Tamworth hogs are pure bred with a confirmed championship bloodline that is registered with the American Tamworth Association. Born in the wild, not in farrowing crates, the Tamworth’s are one of the oldest and most physically active breeds known. They are nicknamed “Irish Grazers”, as they are the finest of foragers, and digest up to 90 percent of their protein from grass.
Due to the Tamworth’s ability to achieve high body mass without having much actual fat, the hog is sometimes called “the bacon pig”, and is an excellent candidate for cross breading. “We have Mangalista’s, a Hungarian lard hog known as the Kobe beef of pork, that we plan to cross breed later this year”, added Mark. With their strikingly long hair and fatty, marbled meat, they’re becoming favorites of both farmers and eaters alike. Mark and Kasia also plan to cross breed with Berkshires, but are dedicated to the purity of the Tamworth breed, and bringing the finest pork products to their customers.
The Fortune’s unique cinnamon clove bacon has loyal patrons raving. Mark says, “People just love it! Wrap a piece of bacon around a sea scallop, and then sear it. The taste is incredible!” Also quite popular at farmers market and in stores, are the Fortune’s delicious breakfast, smoked, Italian, bratwurst and Andouille sausages, all of which I have tried and brought home to cook with.
Though they already hand craft their own products, the Fortune’s are planning to expand their business, and will build an onsite USDA approved processing plant later this year. Mark reached out to a retired USDA inspector as a consultant, who then guided the Fortune’s through the design of the plant. “We are really looking forward to incorporating more pork and beef into our product line, and the grass fed beef label has been approved. I’m also working on a secret seasoning now for my low country pork rinds”, says Mark.
Currently, you can purchase the Big Creek Farm line of products at the Seaside Farmers Market in Seaside, or the Palafox Market in Pensacola on most Saturday’s. They are also available at the WaterColor Coastal Farmers Market and the 30A Farmers Market at Rosemary Beach on most Sunday’s, as well as at Destin Ice Seafood Market in Destin, Staff Of Life in Niceville, For The Health Of It in Blue Mountain Beach, and Ever’mans in Pensacola. For more information, call Big Creek Farm directly at 850-621-3135, or visit them online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Benton is a culinary lifestyle writer, and the owner of 30AEats.com, where she shares her passion for food, travel, and her commitment to promoting regional farmers, chefs, fishermen and artisans along the Gulf Coast. Her cookbook, The New Florida Table, will be released in 2016.