Published in Devour ILM Magazine, May 3, 2017 | Photos by Tom Dorgan
When David Borkowski first started Changin’ Ways LLC and his pig farm back in September 2016, he had no idea the property would be under 5 feet of water a month later. “It was all water as far as you could see,” he says of Hurricane Matthew’s damage last October. Borkowski showed me an aerial shot of the property submerged in water. It easily could have been a photo of a lake.
At the time, Borkowski was able to keep 13 of his piglets at a friend’s farm in Scotts Hill. He took a handful of others elsewhere, while about six hogs were stranded on high ground of the mostly submerged property. They were safe, but he and his friend, Bill O’Brien, had to venture out with kayaks full of food daily for about two weeks.
“Welcome to being responsible for pigs,” Borkowski says with a laugh.
Almost six months later, he and I stood on the same property—soggy from a recent rain but dry enough. Borkowski reminded me we’re not standing on his land; though, he promises he’s not squatting.
“Sometimes I might be accused of that,” he quips. “The property you actually see here is Bill O’Brien’s, who also runs Veteran Owned Veteran Grown. His organization extends to veterans to help with PTSD, mental [and physical] health issues, and get them out on the farm to help them cope and deal.”
Just two years ago, Borkowski was an active-duty Marine who had no knowledge of farming at all. (Aside from the occasional tomato plant that would inevitably fall to a hungry rabbit or bugs.) Other than having dogs and fish as pets, Borkowski had never dealt with livestock in his life. This all changed when he retired and met Kyle Stenersen of Humble Roots Farm near Poplar Grove.
“He needed help processing chickens,” Borkowski recalls. “I started volunteering every couple weeks, and it turned into kind of an internship and . . . one thing snowballed into the next, and Changin’ Ways was born.”