Be a Frugal Farmer

Use the refuse on your property and in your community to stretch the funds for your farm and create healthy soil, plants, and animals.


I’m gazing at three pigs under the white light of a headlamp. They’re snorting, oinking, and rooting around their new enclosure in the dark after a nearly three-hour drive to get to my farm — they’re already hankering for some food. I’m not too keen on the idea of more mouths to feed, in addition to my chickens and rabbits, but I have plenty of food at my disposal. I swiftly unload a few buckets of spent grain that I nabbed from the brewery down the road, and the pigs rip into the slop.

In early October 2018, I found my swine online for a bargain price — only $100 for a trio of Kunekunes, which are docile, great grazers, and lard producers. I couldn’t pass up the deal, but I also recognized I had already hit my limit with farm expenses. So, I decided I’d only pay to get the pigs to the farm, and everything else would be free. Over the next few days, I made a few more trips down the road to the local brewery to load up more buckets of grain, as well as to a health food store for organic produce. Other than the minimal cost of gas to get there, the hauls cost me nothing.

My plan included building a pigpen in the woods near my home to provide them with plenty of shade during the warm fall in Louisiana. I used free pallets to build the pen. I fed the pigs with spent grain from the brewery up the road and food scraps from local grocery stores. I planned to slaughter the pigs in early December for a Louisiana boucherie, a local tradition where a hog is harvested with the help of the community, and every piece of the animal is used, making dishes such as blood boudin, sausage, hog’s head cheese, and more. This gave me two months to see if my experiment in frugality could feed three hungry swine. When December rolled around, the pigs were as healthy as ever. They had spent a few months basking in the sunshine, being hand-fed grapes and fresh Swiss chard. My experiment was a success — I spent no additional money to feed the pigs in a little more than two months.

A shed built from recycled materials holds other repurposed items until they can be put to use.

Since July 2019, when I broke ground on my market garden, I intended to spend as little money on infrastructure and animal feed as possible. My rationale was a prudent one — with a smaller investment in the farm, my return would be better. I also wanted to be less of a burden on a system that already churns out so many items that only end up in the landfill, and I’d do that by refraining from buying many new materials. When I constructed a shed using wood and tin from an old chicken coop, I filled it with secondhand materials and other items that were headed to a dumpster, such as an old washing machine, shelves sitting near a dumpster, and a dusty sink stored in an old barn.

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