November 07, 2016
Krystina Cook was one of the first women to invite me to her ranch when I started FarmHer. It just so happens I was in Iowa with little time and less funds for FarmHer travel while she and her pigs were in California. Fast forward nearly three years and I found my way to the Cook Pigs Ranch just outside of the quaint town of Julian in the mountains above San Diego.
My visit to Krystina’s was most definitely a different type of operation than I had seen before. I knew Krystina worked closely with her family, but seeing her in action and hearing how she got to this place in her life gave me an immense appreciation for her. Growing up in the city, Krystina was always an animal lover who had no animals. She went to school, obtaining an MFT specializing in art therapy and worked to help adolescents until she started her family. Wanting to take more time with her firstborn, a desire to determine how she could provide a wholesome diet for the little boy and her love of animals led to the idea of starting her own ranch, Cook Pigs.
Buying land, buying pigs and building up the herd of varied types of pasture raised pigs was what she focused on as she and her husband continued to grow their family. Over the course of the coming years, Cook Pigs Ranch grew to be a large operation. Krystina learned the ropes of raising pigs on a ranch and even more difficult, pushed and prodded her way into the meat industry. She found the industry incredibly difficult to crack as not only a new producer but also as a woman.
Over the years she has learned and adjusted and built a solid business of restaurants and consumers who look to Cook Pigs for their pork. Now as Krystina says, the ranch is right sized with fewer pigs than they once had, but a much more manageable operation. Their family also seems quite right sized with three little kids that made me feel very much at home as they picked on each other, only as siblings can do. As Krystina worked with the full-time help on the ranch sorting the pigs her kids played around her, helping her with the gate. At one point her youngest, two-year-old Rosaleigh started to scream and with the swift hand of a working mother of three, Krystina scooped her up and kept the chute moving, holding her little girl until the job was done.
We ended the day at the ranch as the golden sun was setting and the cool night air was moving in. The cap of my first night in California we followed up the visit with a quick stop Nickel Beer Co in Julian to share a craft brew with my new friends. You see, that’s one of the very best parts about my FarmHer journey - the new acquaintances and sometimes great friends that I have been blessed with along the way.
Watch video clips here.
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