For this actuary turned pig farmer, career change worth the risk


By John McGauley, The Keene Sentinel (NH)

Feb 2, 2019


Mark Florenz stands on the side porch of his farm in West Keene. It’s a cold, overcast day, and long-frozen puddles embedded with dirt dot the driveway, making for some treacherous walking.


He’s wearing boots, rugged pants and an undershirt with a heavy flannel over it, but no overcoat — a hint that perhaps he’s accustomed to being outside in this weather. He dons a sky-blue hat, knit by his mother, pulled down over his ears.


Florenz is a pig farmer — a rare breed around here, as that kind of livestock-raising has all but disappeared from New England after migrating to the Midwest more than half a century ago, he says.


“A few people raise maybe one, two, five pigs around here; maybe a few have 20, but that’s about it,” says the 41-year-old Florenz, who owns Archway Farm. The farm draws its name from its location on Arch Street, next to the old granite Boston & Maine railroad bridge, which is part of a rail trail that connects to the Pathways for Keene network.


On his farm are more than a hundred pigs — large-scale for this region, but small compared to the big industrial pork farms in the Midwest that can raise up to 8,000 animals at a time. (Parenthetically, a group of pigs is called a sounder of swine, or a passel of hogs.)


In some ways, Florenz is perhaps one’s stereotype of a New England farmer — lean, limber and laconic. But the story of what brought him to pig farming is not a conventional one.


“It certainly has been a journey for us,” he says, of himself; his wife, Alona, who is an executive at C&S Wholesale Grocers; and their two sons, Dmitri, 8, and Leo, 6.


His story starts in Maine, where he was raised on a small “gentleman’s farm” near the town of Norway, in a rural setting about an hour northwest of Portland — “the other Maine,” he calls it. His father, Russell, now a retired emergency medicine physician, and his mother, Judith, a teacher, raised a few beef cattle. His parents visit Keene frequently and help him out with the farm chores...


... The farm also ships its products to Walden Local Meat Co. The Boston-based company promotes and distributes meats from boutique farms in New England that feature grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken, pork and lamb.


Archway Farm is known as an Animal Welfare Approved farm, meaning its products are certified as coming from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. It is also part of A Greener World, a nonprofit organization that audits participating farms annually based on sustainable practices and high livestock-management standards.


“I can’t compete with the price of pork you buy in Market Basket or Price Chopper,” Florenz says. “What I offer is a different kind of specialty product. If you’re shopping for price, go to the big grocery stores.”


Florenz also has a retail outlet...