Max Turner is a 4th generation farmer in Duplin County. Now that his two sons have recently joined the family business, Max can claim that five generations have lived and worked the same land. All told, Max and various members of the family manage 2700 acres, of which 110 is dedicated to hog production. His other crops include cotton, wheat straw, horse hay, oats, rye, corn, soybeans, and wheat. Until 2008, tobacco was a mainstay of his operation. “We got out of tobacco for many reasons, including the fact that the labor pool had become less dependable, the price was dropping and diseases were continually a threat. Honestly, we’re doing all we can but it’s been hard to replace it,” says Max.
So Max began investing in other enterprises, including pasture-raised hogs. Today, he runs a 75 sow operation at two different locations and sells approximately 20 hogs per week. Max raises hogs that are a 2 or 3-way cross of different breeds, including Duroc, Berkshire, Chesterwhite, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Tamworth. Most years, Max purchases feed for his hogs claiming his land is not productive enough to grow good quality corn. “We’re still hopeful that hogs will be a good replacement for tobacco but with high priced feed right now, it’s challenging,” says Max.
He is one of the larger producers participating in the NC Natural Hog Growers Association. Max relies on Sergio Lopez to coordinate production. “Sergio is my right arm when it comes to pork. He’s been with me 17 years and he lives on the farm with his family. I appreciate how much interest he and his family show in taking care of the hogs,’ says Max.
Max raises his hogs within different environments on the farm. The woods are used extensively, as are different types of huts, where sows and young piglets can find shade and shelter from the wind. Each paddock is connected to a field in which hogs are rotated with annual crops. For example, millet is planted in the spring and when it has achieved some maturity, the hogs are allowed in the field to glean the crop and root around. The field is then leveled and planted to rye in the fall and the process is repeated. Notes Max, “That’s the best way I know how to keep ground cover on the farm and soak up the nutrients left behind by the hogs.”
When asked about his philosophy toward farming, Max replied, “I try to use common sense. And I believe in listening to my elders. If someone has more experience than I do, I want to learn from their mistakes rather than make my own!”
For more information about Max Turner and the NC Natural Hog Growers Association, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.