Farmers Market--Lazy KJ Ranch

Stuart of Lazy KJ Ranch serving some of the best BBQ roasted pork, ribs and pork sandwiches in the area. He has been at the Sierra Vista Farmers Market for the last three years.

Did you know that research using pigs may have a potential new way of breathing for humans in critical respiratory crises?

As a small boy, I had decided to become a doctor when I grew up. I even majored in pre-med in college, but life has a way of guiding us in the direction it needs us to go. I never became a doctor, but medicine still fascinates me and I try to keep up on the medical front.

For instance, in the past year or so as we all know, respiratory treatments have been in the news. We have all heard about mechanical ventilators, where a machine pushes oxygen into your lungs through the windpipe. An alternative to this is called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), where the blood is pumped out of the body, re-oxygenated and then pumped back into body through a machine. Both of these methods have several shortfalls such as limited quantity and in the case of the ECMO, along with limited quantity, there is also the possibility of bleeding and blood clots.

Now this is where the main topic for today, pigs and such, comes into play.

Did you know that pigs, mice, and rats, have a superpower? They can breathe through their butts. Research shows that pigs can use their intestines to breathe. How did they discover this? They pumped air through a pig’s anus and then studied the results as the animals were placed in a low-oxygen environment. The survival rate increased dramatically.

So far, results are promising, so we’ll have to wait and see. But let’s talk about what we do know.

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world. As to when the transition from hunting to husbandry began, the topic is still out for debate at the moment, but the fact remains that fossil evidence indicates that the pig dates back 40 million years. The domestication of pigs started in China around 4900 BC (although some experts claim 7000 to 6000 BC in Western Asia) and were being raised in Europe by 4500 BC. Using ancient DNA analysis, researchers say that these pigs were introduced to northern Europe by agriculturists. Farmers of the area then started to mix local wild boars into their herds.

On the North American continent, the North American Peccary, the New World counterparts of swine, (think Javelina) fossils are from late sediments dating back 37 million years ago.

Jumping forward to a more modern era, Christopher Columbus took eight pigs on his voyage to Cuba in 1493, but Hernando de Soto was considered the true “Father of the American pork industry.” He brought America’s first 13 pigs to Tampa Bay, FL. in 1539. It is said that the American Indians were so fond of the taste of pork that they were devastating in their attacks on de Soto’s expedition. Even with the onslaught, when de Soto died three years later his herd had expanded to more than 700 pigs. That doesn’t take into account how many pigs were eaten by his troops, taken by Indians, or lost to the wilds as now feral pigs. Either way, the pork industry in America had begun. New colonies saw a rapid spread of pig production; Cortes brought hogs to New Mexico in 1600 while Sir Walter Raleigh brought sows to Jamestown colony in 1607.

By 1660 the pig population of the Pennsylvania Colony numbered in the thousands. With the close of the 1600s, a typical farmer owned four or five pigs, enough for the family and a little extra to sell. The introduction of America Indian corn was chosen as the feed to fatten up hogs for slaughter, setting the standard for late fall pork harvesting.

The westward expansion of the late 1700s took pigs along with them. Cincinnati, known as “Porkopolis” was the home of the first commercially slaughtered pigs. By the mid-1880s, Cincinnati led the nation in pig processing. Pigs were driven to markets by drovers along trails. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 pigs were driven to market at a pace of five-eight miles per day. This method of getting pigs to market changed drastically when Swift & Co. introduced the refrigerated railroad car in 1887. This created a revolution in pig farming as large terminal markets developed in Chicago; Kansas City, MO; St. Joseph, MO; and Sioux City, IA. Today Iowa is still the top pork producer in the U.S.

Pork production in the U.S. has an estimated $23.4 billion worth of output per year, with around 26% of the nearly 2.2 million metric tons of pork and pork products exported to other countries. Of the 60,000 U.S. pork producers today, Smithfield Foods, owned by Chinese company WH Group, is the largest.

When it comes to cuisine, “We know ribs and chops will always be staples…” said Angie Krieger, vice president of domestic marketing at the National Pork Board. But what are the real favorites out there? I guess I would have to live in North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, or Tennessee based on my favorite dishes--whole hog barbecue, pulled pork sandwich, Cleveland-style barbecue, or Memphis ribs, respectively. In Arizona, the favorite is pork chimichangas.

As sandwiches go, pulled pork is my favorite ,and it has been around for many years. The USDA Agricultural Research Service says that roughly 49% of adults in the U.S. eat a sandwich each day.

As a whole, barbecue is one of the favorite eating choices in America and has been since over 100 years prior to the Civil War. In the early days, plantation owners used to fatten up their hogs by releasing them into the woods to graze for months. Festivals and gatherings would be planned around the slaughter of these semi-wild hogs, thus bringing us the traditional southern BBQ. Over time, the southern farmers would take more care to fatten and marble the pigs, which became the exclusive meal source to the south, since these pigs were not exported to the north.

The term “pulled pork” originated from these BBQ gatherings, but it does not mean what you think it does. You probably think it means the pork is “pulled apart” or shredded when it is completely done. But it doesn’t.

Remember who was doing the cooking. The plantation owners would throw the party and have their slaves do the cooking. The slaves were typically so hungry that they would “pull the pork” off the coals when the meat was done and could easily be pulled away from the roast.

Sonny’s BBQ, a barbecue restaurant chain founded by Floyd “Sonny” Tillman in Gainesville, FL in 1968, partnered with the National Pork Board and the National BBQ Association in the U.S. to declare Oct. 12 as Pulled Pork Day.

Wee have two locations here at the Market that sell “pulled pork” sandwiches, Big Woody’s and the Lazy KJ Ranch. I have already previously spotlighted Big Woody’s with his excellent pulled pork sandwich, so today I’d like to introduce you to The Lazy KJ Ranch.

The Lazy KJ Ranch was founded 45 years ago off Highway 80 between Bisbee and Douglas by June, Stuart’s mother. The Lazy KJ is a small family ranch that raises their animals right with all home-grown food sources for the animals, containing no artificial foods, no hormones, no antibiotics and no steroids. Their feed consists of four kinds of sprouts, including wheatgrass. They raise rabbits, chickens and pigs, but it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning June raised horses, until one day she received a gift of a piglet. She loved the pig and decided to raise pigs along with the horses. As June grew older, she made her son Stuart promise to care for the animals and the ranch in case of her demise. In 2016 June died and Stuart, true to his word, packed up his life in Washington, gave up his 20-year span of raising sled dogs near the Canadian border and moved to southern Arizona to become a rancher.

It didn’t take Stuart very long to realize that the ranch needed a make-over. Stuart had a new mission in life: making his mother’s ranch self-sustaining. He incorporated ideas that he had developed in Washington to make a dog food for his sled dogs that could improve the life of every dog, where every ingredient is grown or raised on the ranch, organically and humanely. He expanded those ideas to produce the feed for the pigs. He developed an organic grass- and veggie-based diet for his pigs to give them the healthiest lives and to get the best possible flavor in their meat. Although he is working with pigs now, he still has a passion for dog food that you may find on local shelves someday.

As for the BBQ side of the house, Stuart says the ribs are to die for. These incredibly deep, rich-flavored pork ribs will literally fall off the bone and melt in your mouth. The signature ribs are part of the BBQ food side of the ranch he began in late 2018 or early 2019, bringing it to our Market a year later.

The Lazy KJ Ranch menu includes such favorites as BBQ pork, a quesadilla with shredded cheese, slow-cooked ranch beans enhanced with the juices from the roasted pork, fabulous ribs, pork sandwiches and doubled-stacked nachos made with two layers of chips, BBQ pork, ranch beans and cheese. The main meals are accompanied by sides of chipotle flavored coleslaw, slow-cooked ranch beans or for a dollar more you can have homemade, smoked potato salad.

Since opening the BBQ, he has traveled to many functions in and around Cochise County, including feeding 250 to 300 workers at the building of the wall and several events on Ft. Huachuca. I encourage you to bring your appetite with you and stop by the Lazy KJ Ranch for some of the best pork BBQ this side of the Mississippi. Visit them at https://www.facebook.com/LazyKJRanch/

As always, many of the market vendors accept WIC Farmers Markets & Senior Farmers Markets Vouchers in exchange for fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP vouchers can also be used at some of the vendors booths. You can use your EBT card at the info booth for SNAP vouchers and Double UP tokens (unlimited amount right now).

We are looking forward to seeing you all at this coming week’s Market. For more information on all our vendors and the products they will be bringing, please see this week’s Farmers’ Market newsletter at www.sierravistafarmersmarkets.com. Also, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sierravistafarmersmarket/.

Submitted by “Uncle” Ralph Wildermuth