Farm: Dixon Family Farm
Operator: Jay Dixon
Production: Pastured pork, rabbitry, and other livestock
Location: Grifton, Greene County, NC
Jay Dixon farms and raises livestock in Greene County, North Carolina. He has more than 15 years of experience in raising hogs both commercially and on his own farm. He spent much of his career as a young farmer working at a large sow farm. Dixon Family Farms is surrounded by large row crop farms and confinement livestock operations, and Jay’s own family has been rooted in the conventional agriculture of the region for three generations.
“I grew up on a farm where my father grew row crops, tobacco, and managed a contract turkey farm, which he got out from under to farm with his older brother and myself,” Jay explains, “I went to school at NC State University in their swine management program and was only farming part time. During my studies there, I was offered a job with LL Murphy Company running a sow farm. I jumped at the chance. I was the manager of this sow farm for 13 years. After pork prices fell to record lows, they were forced to shut the farm down.”
In 2012, Jay was able to jump start his own family-operated rabbitry and pastured pork business. He wanted to do something new on his family’s farm while relying on the traditional approaches to raising hogs that he learned as a child and a teenager growing up on his family’s farm. He knew he needed to achieve two tall orders to be successful: first, significantly expand his farm’s production and, second, make high-quality pasture-raised meats available to members of his rural community.
Our rabbit and pasture-based swine project is a family-run program. We are focusing on trying to raise and market our products directly to consumers, thus supporting the local economy, and providing food products to the under-privileged at affordable prices. I feel this will help the community, and make Dixon Family Farms sustainable.
Before his expansion, Jay’s rabbitry operation consisted of between 50 and 75 rabbits. His goal was to raise up to 200 or more at a time, allowing him to sell the finished product at a more affordable price. Scaling up would also allow him to reach new markets by transporting some of his product to nearby towns and cities.
Jay’s concern for the animals he raises shows in everything he does to ensure their ability to get fresh air, walk freely, wallow, root, and “do all things pigs like to do,” as he says. One of Jay’s goals for the project was to build a six stall farrowing and nursery shed for farrowing and raising pigs. He planned to have the stalls to connect with pasture land, he says, “so the animals would have access to pasture as soon as possible.”