Tony and Sue Renger and their three children live in the Baraboo Hills of southwestern Wisconsin, close to urban and rural customers who appreciate the Rengers' humane pig husbandry. Their Willow Creek Farm (WCF) products are sold to chefs in Madison, at farmers markets, and in small town delicatessens. AWI is pleased to announce that the Rengers have become the first family complying with AWI husbandry standards to market directly to their customers. Here, in their own words, the family describes their principled approach to raising pigs:
When we first decided to raise hogs we felt it had to be in the manner my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather raised their hogs with access to the natural surroundings. As we designed our operation utilizing the methods of the past it dovetailed perfectly with the humane methods that the AWI supports.
We believe that those involved with raising animals for meat production have a moral obligation to see that their animals have a natural and comfortable existence. One of our greatest pleasures in farming is to watch our pigs frolic on the pasture and to see that they truly enjoy their surroundings. We give them the opportunity to make their own choices, whether going inside a shelter or outdoors or playing in the straw bedding, running up in the pasture, or making mudholes. It's really just the right thing to do.
Some of the stores refer to us as "cruelty-free" farmers and educate their customers concerning the choices they can make when buying meat. Customers are excited to purchase meat from pigs raised in a sustainable and humane manner, to support a small family farm, to know where their food comes from and what's in it. At farmers markets, vegetarians often will buy products from us to serve to their non-vegetarian friends and family just because of the way we raise our animals.
At WCF, we strive to form a relationship with consumers in order to make the food system more local, safe, and sustainable. We feel that by raising our hogs humanely and in a sustainable manner we are working with the natural rhythm of the seasons and the land. Growing the corn and wheat straw on our land and returning manure to the fields for fertilizer creates a circle of fertility that we believe is one of the foundations of good husbandry, both of our hogs and our land.