EVERETT - Brian and Alana Schoffstall believe they have found their niche.
The owners of Black Valley Farm near here in West Providence Township, the Schoffstalls are breeding Kunekune pigs.
First brought to the U.S. from New Zealand in 1995, Kunekunes are short, rotund pigs covered in hair and known for their docile behavior. Because their natural habitat is woodland and pasture, Kunekunes are good foragers and do well on little more than grass.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Black Valley Farm owner Brian Schoffstall waters his pigs. Kunekune pigs were first brought to the United States from New Zealand in 1995.
Four week-old Kunekune piglets walk around in October at Black Valley Farm in Everett.
Alana Schoffstall holds a week-old Kunekune piglet.
"They graze while other pigs don't," Alana Schoffstall said.
There are 31 registered breeders with the American Kunekune Breeders' Association, organization founder Lori Enright of Norco, Calif., said.
The Schoffstalls are considered to be one of the top three breeders in the U.S., taking into consideration the genetic diversity of their breeding herd as well as the number of litters produced each year, Enright said.
The Schoffstalls started breeding Kunekunes in January 2009.
"We have a permanent breeding herd of 20 and about 10 piglets for a total of 30 pigs," Alana Schoffstall said. "We started farrowing [producing litters] last spring. We have delivered 27 piglets to date."
Kunekune pigs are considered to be a multi-use breed and are prized for their sweet, succulent meat and quality fat, Enright said.
The Schoffstalls, who have focused on selling breeding stock, plan to get into meat production as this year's litter will be retained for meat, Brian Schoffstall said.
"We would like to sell to local markets and wholesalers in the Pittsburgh area," Alana Schoffstall said. "We want to branch into things like gourmet sausages and have them identified as Black Valley brand, not just a pork chop."
Cyndi Berry, owner of Kunekune Preserve USA, Mount Pleasant, N.C., sells Kunekunes as companion animals and pets.
"They are very friendly and just like a dog. They are extremely docile and love human company," Berry said. "I am a vegan. I say if you meet one and eat it, it is like eating the family dog."
The Schoffstalls are active members of the breeders' association. As the northeast regional coordinators, they are available to answer questions from other breeders or potential buyers.
The Schoffstalls also are breeding Nubian goats, which are similar in temperament to the Kunekune pigs.
"We chose them for the butterfat content," Alana Schoffstall said. "We have a goal of doing dairy products, to make specialty cheeses."
The Schoffstalls also raise chickens to produce farm fresh eggs that they sell to friends and relatives and raise seasonal produce, which is sold at Wholesome Living Marketplace in Bedford.
Alana Schoffstall said marketing has been the key to their success.
"Most of our sales are generated through our website [www.blackvalleyfarm.com] and the breeders association," she said. "A lot of doors have opened that we didn't anticipate. We feel it is marketing - people being able to find us."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.