Elkhorn Ranch South
Who doesn't love baby pigs? A fair question posed by owner and hog farmer, Josh Hale of Elkhorn Ranch South. Josh and the Hale family raise heritage hogs on pasture in Mackay, Idaho. Driven by their childhood memories of time on the farm, Josh and his wife Kashia purchased land in Mackay to put down roots and raise a family. Little did they know, in just three short years, they'd be supplying pasture-raised pork products to customers throughout the Wood River Valley.
How did you get to where you are today? What’s your background, education, work experience in relation to food?
It definitely all started by accident. After purchasing a small ranch we decided to purchase 8 feeder pigs to finish for friends and family. After bringing the pigs home and seeing the joy they brought our oldest daughter and ourselves, we started looking for ways to make raising pigs more than a hobby. We stumbled across heritage hogs being raised on pasture and really resonated with all the benefits raising pigs on pasture provides. While researching, we discovered there was a market and demand for the pork in our region. Three months after purchasing our first feeders, we loaded up and headed to Montana to buy our first breeding stock. With the combination of great customers and great products, we’ve been able to expand to raising and finishing about 200 pigs in our third year. In addition to our current success, we are currently working on making substantial expansions and moving into other markets.
What inspired you to start farming/ranching?
We were both born and raised on a farm/ranch. We wanted to continue that legacy and in hopes inspire our children to do the same. We have a longing passion for what we do. We want to give our customers the best product they can buy, and know that they are buying a product that is quality not quantity. The opportunity to continue to pursue that passion gives us all the inspiration we need.
What do you love most about it?
Baby Pigs! Who doesn't love baby pigs. Raising our daughters in this setting and teaching them all the lessons that it offers is invaluable to us. Waking up and having the opportunity to do something we love and knowing that what we’re doing has lasting positive impact on the animals we raise, the land we utilize and the customers we serve. Being able to do something we are passionate about makes early mornings and late nights all worthwhile. We would have to say that the ranch and farm life runs in our veins. Being able to offer our animals a superior life brings great satisfaction. Even with the challenges that are presented at times, we still love what we do.
What are the biggest challenges?
With there being limited knowledge and experience locally in raising pigs naturally on pasture there was significant challenges in the first couple years. With the assistance of Google and the willingness to try and fail, we kept going until we found the answers and results we wanted. With hard work comes lots of challenges, we currently are facing challenges with funding for growth and keeping up with the growing demand. Thankfully, with hard work and dedication, we are making great progress in those areas. In addition, processing our meat has posed some challenges with the limited amount of USDA-inspected plants in our area. We hope to solve that for ourselves and other local and small producers by building our own meat plant in the future.
What’s it like raising a family on the farm?
Beyond priceless! We wouldn't want to raise our girls any other way. We were both born and raised in this great lifestyle and we wanted our girls to be as well. There's countless lessons that come from growing up on a farm. The hard work and discipline it takes to do what farmers and ranchers do daily cannot be taught in any other setting.
What’s your favorite dish made with ingredients from your farm/ranch?
That’s a tough one. My wife, Kashia, is very talented when it comes to making delicious meals out of all of our prime cuts or sausage. We would say our fresh summer green beans, onions and our bacon, or a delicious sausage chowder. With all the buzz about going plant-based, what is one thing you’d like to share with consumers about the meat you raise? We raise our meat on natural grass (no fertilizer or chemicals) in open pastures. By choosing to raise our meat on pasture grass, it produces much higher nutrients than commercial animals. We lean toward the carnivore diet side of things. We believe everyone is different and should try different options to see what works best for each individual.
You’re located in a sparsely populated area, how does that benefit you as farmers/ranchers, and how does it hinder you?
We benefit by being part of a small community and building close relationships with people in our community. We strive to build personal relationships with our customers. With having our ranch in a small town, we help foster the local economy, by keeping money close to home and supporting neighborhoods and communities. As well, being in a rural area can pose some challenges logistically for operating a small business but we have learned to adapt and make the most out of every situation we face. When we face issues, we have learned to think positively and just put our heads down, do the hard work, and look out of the box for ideas and opportunities to make things happen.
Where do you see your farm/ranch business in the next 5 years?
We plan to continue growing so that we can begin to serve people in other regions of the state. We have high goals to start providing customers with direct shipment of our meat to their doorstep in the coming years. In addition, we will be adding beef in the near future.
What change would you like to see in the Wood River Valley region in terms of food?
First and foremost, we are beyond grateful for all the work that the Wood River Valley is doing in terms of food. It is so nice to be apart of a valley that is committed to improving their food system. As far as change, we just hope to see the continued dedication to supporting local farmers and businesses. The continued education of consumers will be highly beneficial to both consumer and small local producers from health benefits, environmental and financial benefits are all positively impacted by supporting local.
What products do you offer and where can people find them?
We offer many great pork products and do special requests on certain productsfrequently. Some of our most popular products are our breakfast sausages, bacon(fresh side, cured, jowl, and cottage) and Italian sausage. Our prime cuts such as chops, steaks and country style ribs are all very popular. We can be found at Kraay's Market & Garden, NourishMe in Ketchum, Atkinsons' in Ketchum and Hailey, the General Merc in Stanley, Limelight Hotel in Ketchum. We do direct to customer deliveries on bulk orders. We also offer on our farm purchases,where you can come pick up the meat directly from us.