Hogs and a small town co-exist

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories.

ALBIN, Wyo. - In this town of just 120 people some 50 miles southeast of Wheatland, hogs have been a part of the landscape for a decade.

But the owner of a mini-empire of 11,000 sows, which bear up to 250,000 pigs a year, isn't corporate; he's local farmer Jim Lerwick. Because Lerwick is from Albin, because he's rounded up 75 individual investors, some of them local farmers, and because he jumped the gun on the negative publicity pouring out of Iowa and North Carolina, resistance to his hog farms has been less intense and less organized than opposition to hog farming in Wheatland.

He still faces opposition. Theron Anderson's house sits two miles from two different hog farm sites just outside of Albin. A large man, Anderson speaks slowly and with an air of misgiving. He says that the odor from the hogs can be "unbearable." He now takes medication for a sinus problem that he did not have before the pigs moved in. Anderson says he also wonders if Lerwick is using more than his fair share of water.

"I don't think he was entirely honest with us. I know he wasn't honest with me," says Anderson. "He stood near my back door and said, 'You won't smell it more than a couple of days a year.' "

Lerwick is an enthusiastic pig promoter. On a blustery day in March, he's standing at the front of a big yellow school bus, giving 60 distracted high schoolers what amounts to a campaign speech for hogs.

As the bus rattles down the straight, dusty, county roads that run between the many buildings that house his pigs, Lerwick answers questions about pig survival rates, how to know when sows are in heat and what effect the corporate hog industry is having on small family hog farms.

"Excellent question," he responds to this last. "What happens when Wal-Mart comes to town? A major reshuffling of the retailing of product. That's exactly what's happening in the pork industry on a global scale. As technology has emerged, those that accept the technology have the advantage. We try to do it with as much grace and compassion as we can, but it's an economic question."

It's a familiar free-market argument, and Lerwick is a familiar type of businessman. In his words, he's bringing jobs to a small community that otherwise might not make it.

"A hundred jobs for a town of one hundred. That's not bad."

For the most part, locals seem to agree. As Mike Braman, bartender of Albin's sole bar puts it: "There's 125 employees and some of them drink."

High Country News Classifieds
  • GRANT WRITER (PART-TIME, FREELANCE CONTRACT)
    High Country News seeks an energetic, eloquent and highly organized grant writer to support a growing foundations program. This position works closely with our Executive...
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM MANAGER
    Associate Program Manager ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our State Parks thrive. From redwood groves and desert springs...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • FREE RANGE BISON AVAILABLE
    Hard grass raised bison available in east Montana. You harvest or possible deliver quartered carcass to your butcher or cut/wrapped pickup. Contact Crazy Woman Bison...
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...