Newman Farm – Heritage Berkshire Pork
For the last 25 years, family-run Newman Farm has been raising purebred Heritage Berkshire Pork in the countryside of southern Missouri. Situated on more than 250 acres between Memphis and St. Louis, in Myrtle, Missouri, Newman Farm has one of the largest outdoor Berkshire herds in the country. This premium product goes on to high-end restaurants and retailers coast to coast.
But it’s not quantity Newman Farm strives for; it’s the quality of the highly-sought-after pork that’s the end goal. “If you don’t have quality, quantity doesn’t mean much,” says Rita Newman, owner of Newman Farm alongside her sons, Chris and David Newman.
Free to roam
Newman Farm’s high-quality end product stems from the investment the company makes in the quality of the animal’s life from farrow to finish. “We strongly believe that for pork to be marketed as Heritage, Heirloom or sustainably produced, the animal must be produced and finished outdoors,” says Rita.
All of Newman Farm’s Heritage sows are allowed to graze in five- to 10-acre pastures within the farm’s expanse of over 200 acres. Raising as many animals by this method requires an extensive amount of manual labor, but Rita says Newman Farm is still doing some things the old-fashioned way. “A lot of things are manually done,” she says. “This kind of farming is few and far between anymore because it is so much work.”
A family farming tradition
This amount of work hasn’t deterred the Newmans; born and raised on farms, the family is accustomed to the labor-intensive lifestyle. “Raising pigs is all we’ve ever done,” says Rita, who began Newman Farm with her late husband Mark Newman after they married in 1974.
“I grew up with pigs and cows on my family’s farm and Mark started with the FFA in high school where he fell in love with pig farming,” recounts Rita. “We had always raised outdoor animals, but in the early ‘80s when the markets changed, Mark decided he was interested in looking into the confinement side. We moved to northwest Iowa and ran a successful indoor farm.”
While visiting England for swine consulting, Mark was driving around the countryside and noticed how animals were raised in open pastures with individual sow huts. “He stopped to talk to the local farmers and learned more about raising traditional English Berkshires outdoors,” says Rita.
After the trip, Mark decided he wanted to start his own traditional Berkshire farm, raising some of the most genetically-acclaimed pigs on the market. “We moved our four children to southern Missouri to start the farm,” recalls Rita. “We wanted them to learn the value of working on the farm too.”
Today, even after her husband’s passing, Rita and her children are moving the family tradition forward. “Mark passed away suddenly in 2013 and although it’s been tough without him and his leadership, my sons and I are owners and operators and we all share in the duties to keep things running,” says Rita.
From farm to top restaurants
Since becoming Berkshire pork producers, Newman Farm has established a relationship with Heritage Foods USA, a direct-to-consumer mail-order company and wholesaler of premium meats. Heritage Foods sources from small farms, seeking healthy animals with sound genetics, treated humanely and allowed to pursue natural instincts.
“Heritage Foods helps us do the marketing of a portion of our pork,” explains Rita. “We bring hogs to Kansas City every few weeks for slaughter and through Heritage Foods, pork products are sent to the east and west coasts to a range of high-end restaurants and retailers.”
“Some really famous chefs such as Mario Batali serve our pork in their restaurants,” adds Rita. Closer to home, in both Memphis and St. Louis, Newman Farm has established relationships with many regional restaurants seeking the premium pork products the farm offers.
“Whenever Mark traveled to St. Louis or Memphis to share our story with restaurants he would walk into the back door and enter through the kitchen,” says Rita. “That’s because he wanted to speak directly with the chef and that’s how we’ve made connections over the years. We have very strong markets in St. Louis and Memphis.”
Top chefs know that not all pork is created equal. This is why so many regional restaurateurs and chefs continue to choose Newman Farm. “Our animals meet and even exceed the production standards of Certified Humane,” says Rita. “Things are different at Newman Farm. Here, you can see sows and pigs roaming freely across our farm every day.”
Rita says the Newman Farm is extremely proud of the way it handles and raises its pigs and the company encourages customers to come see firsthand. “Every Memorial Day weekend we host an annual customer appreciation day for our chefs and customers,” she says. “We invite people to come on farm tours and to see the animals. Plus, a local winery comes to the event. It’s about good food, good drink and good company and we get to share what we love.”
For 25 years, Newman Farm has been passionate about raising 100 percent purebred Berkshire pork, understanding that happy, healthy animals free to roam make for the best end result.