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Meet the Easons, the Backbone of Cartwright Family Farms

Tamshire Piglets, Photo Credit: Blake McCluney

Cartwright Family Farms is located in southern Virginia Beach, Virginia in a small area known as Pungo. They raise heritage breed pigs such as Tamworth, Berkshire, and Ossabaw Island hogs. The fourth generation hundred-acre farm is completely dependent upon word of mouth and Instagram followers. Husband and wife team Derek and Janna Eason run the farm alongside Derek's parents, Chester and Carol. Derek's maternal grandparents were the Cartwrights.

Unlike many conventional pig farms, the Easons allow piglets to nurse for 11 weeks. The sow weens them naturally before they are allowed to freely roam numerous pastures and wooded areas for the next 10 months to a year before being processed. They are fed soy-free and non-GMO grain sourced from Sunrise Farms in Charlottesville, Virginia. The grain mixture contains wheat, barley, field peas, and corn. The Easons pick it up, “2,000 pounds at a time,” Derek says, from a farm in Suffolk. In addition to grain, the pigs also eat insects, acorns, and grass that they find while rooting around at their leisure.

Agreeing that societal views on food choice are lackluster, Janna says, “I just tell people to watch a few documentaries…It’ll change you.” The Easons eat as healthy as they can and attribute that decision to continue their life on the farm. She says, “I think of it as food is our medicine,” and that it is important to know where your food comes from.

The pigs are accustomed to human presence, too. Wilbur, the farm’s five hundred pound boar, will even let Derek rub his belly. Sally, one of the sows, squeals with joy when her back is rubbed just the right way. The Easons niece is in charge of naming the pigs, too. Some of the others include Lucy, Charlotte, Ginger, and Ruby.

As for the piglets, they are full of energy. They run, jump, and play and have distinct personalities. 

Derek says, “This is probably the most stress-free life they’ll ever have so they can live for a long time.” They also only breed once a year to limit the stress on the sows. “I try not to grow any more than I can sell,” Eason says, and they use everything from nose to tail. Many of their customers are homeowners who order cuts ahead of time or from local restaurants in need of large portions.

Though the job is tiresome and relentless, The Easons count their blessings and maintain a positive outlook. 

This year, the farm will contain more pigs than it ever has! Two sows farrowed one week apart in March and two more will be having their piglets in the coming months. As if caring for pigs was not enough, the Easons are expecting honey bees in April and have plans to raise chickens for meat. They will also be growing vegetables and herbs. In addition to their 24/7 farm career, Derek is a full-time fire fighter and Janna is an x-ray technician. The two are high school sweethearts who have a tremendous amount of love for each other, their family, and their farm. Even their pigs smile.

To learn more about Cartwright Family Farms, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @cartwrightfamilyfarms.