Thanksgiving has come and gone. November is a fading memory. Our gourd patio decor and squash centerpieces are replaced by Christmas trees and holiday garlands. So, what does one do with the plethora of left-over pumpkins? Well, Pumpkins for Pigs offers a solution. This national network of local farms and animal sanctuaries is tied together via the web site pumpkinsforpigs.org. There are several in Delaware including three in the immediate coastal vicinity. The network’s mission is “to match pigs (and other pumpkin-eating animals) with uncarved, non-inked/non-painted pumpkins to prevent them from being thrown in a landfill”.
Dawn Smith and her husband Ralph are the proprietors of Salty Birds and Swine, a Pumpkins for Pigs facility in Milton just north of Rt 16 off Coastal Highway. Dawn characterizes the operation as a “hobby farm”. Her daughter and son-in-law, Jessica and Jarrod Adams, run another Pumpkins for Pigs location – All Cooped Up – also in Milton. There is a third location in Lewes called The Hens Den. Information on these and other Delaware sites are listed on the pumpkinfsorpigs.org website including details on what they can accept besides pumpkins.
Across Sussex, there seem to be amazing stories hiding behind every barn, every storefront, and every family name. The Smiths are one great example. Dawn and her husband inherited a piece of property from Ralph’s mother when she passed away in 2018. Little by little they have expanded each year. Dawn’s first pig – Noodles – came from her daughter. Noodles is a Yorkshire mix, according to Smith, who also raises chickens and ducks. “Noodles is now four years-old, and she weighs about 600 pounds,” she said.
Her other pigs – a New Zealand breed called Kune Kune – are named Eunice, Miss Maple and Gilbert. Gilbert is the apple of her eye. “He’s really handsome and he knows it,” she says. “While Gilbert is about two years old and weighs about 500 pounds.” Besides pumpkins, they love salads and scrambled eggs, but they won’t ignore the other produce for long. (Take a look at the wishlist of food items on the Salty Birds and Swine website listing.)
Dawn’s pigs live in the comfort of their “mini” pig home, a shed (provided by a neighbor), filled with warm, clean straw. The pigs are protected by a solar-powered fence that keeps them contained in a rather large partially wooded area. “We have lost some of our chickens to foxes, coyotes and an eagle but the pigs help keep them safe,” according to Dawn. She donates most of the eggs from the chickens to local groups and friends or barters with other farmers and neighbors. She once swapped a rabbit for a friend’s crippled duck. (Quite a Town Musicians of Bremen in the making!)
Dawn is the epitome of “the working mom” when she isn’t busy with the hobby farm, she’s taking care of the grandkids (and she works nights!!!). Her energy, enthusiasm and devotion are inspiring!!!
Salty Birds and Swine welcomes donations large and small from individuals and families but one of her biggest pumpkins and gourds benefactors is The Brush Factory in Lewes. Ray’s Produce, located in The Brush Factory building, donates food products that are about to have lived beyond their prime. The relationship started through a personal connection with a friend of Dawn’s mom. “We’ve been blessed”, she says.
Why not plan for your pumpkin pile to go to good use? Salty Birds and Swine accepts donation of gourds, acorns, Christmas trees, green leafy vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and apples. Get on down to the farm located at 12769 Reynolds Road. Don’t be intimidated by the No Trespassing signs. They are meant to protect the animals. Friends are always welcome and your donations are appreciated!
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Ophrah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.
SALTY BIRDS AND SWINE – drop off information
12769 Reynolds Road, Milton, DE 19968
Accepted: Pumpkins, Gourds, Acorns, Christmas trees, green leaf begs, carrots, tomatoes, and apples only
Drop Off Instructions:Please text when items are dropped off. Leave at front gate / mail box. All donations are very much appreciated!