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LA CRESCENT — A 500-pound boar named Basil, pursuing a red pail of food, is lured onto a paint-stripped trailer with Wisconsin license plates.

"Here pig, pig, pig," Harry Hoch, owner of Hoch Orchard & Gardens, says.

Basil squeezes past two sows on the narrow path of this 15,000-fruit-tree orchard, draped on a hillside in the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota.

"He's got more horsepower than I do," Hoch says, referring to the Gloucestershire Old Spot hog.

Breeder swine can cost $500 or more. And they're tough to find for a farmer, such as Sal Daggett, who grows vegetables and raises hogs and poultry on just a few acres in western Wisconsin.

As a smallholder farmer, she sells to local buyers. But every spring she scours Craigslist for pigs. Sometimes she's dropped everything to drive from her farm to points south near the Minnesota-Iowa border to buy animals.

"All of these small farmers are looking for pigs," Daggett said. "And the price keeps going up."

What's unique about this transaction on a sunny Wednesday morning at Hoch's Orchard & Gardens is there isn't any monetary exchange. Hoch opted to give away his family's hogs — and ewes and goats — after a regional lottery, facilitated by a group of farmland non-profits, including Renewing the Countryside, chose the new caretakers.

Having survived the pandemic, Hoch and his wife, Jackie, want to wind down their operation. They're moving to a permaculture eco-community outside San Ignacio in Belize to run an ag cooperative. And their daughters — a tattoo artist and counselor — have no interest in running the farm the Hochs have owned since 1997.

Daggett entered the competition earlier this spring to win three old breed pigs — two sows and Basil the boar. When she won what she calls her "small lottery" she called her partner, Joe Moore, to see if they had the necessary infrastructure for more hogs. Together, they manage Roosterhaven Farm outside Deer Park, Wis.

"I've been piecemealing the fencing together the last few weeks," Joe said.

Wednesday morning, Daggett and Moore arrived bright and early to Hoch's bluff-top orchard to pick up her winnings. With her own breeding stock, she can focus on raising them on her pasture.

Basil shakes his floppy ears while his new owner, Daggett, stands back to admire him.

"It will be pretty awesome to have our own breeding stock," Daggett said.

Many farmers might sell the land they worked for decades, say emotional goodbyes and take in a nice profit. But Hoch wanted to do it differently. Land prices have risen consistently, pricing out new and beginning farmers.

According to a 2022 survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition, more than half of beginning farmers say locating affordable land to purchase is extremely challenging.

So Hoch is working with a nonprofit to help sell the land to a deserving farmer — not a land speculator. And he wanted to help the next generation by giving away those hogs and sheep.

Candidates had to show they had wherewithal with animal husbandry. Daggett wasn't the only winner.

"It's warmer here than where we grow. Some people can grow peaches [here], I'm told," said Kifah Abdi, a Somali immigrant who co-owns Abdi-Mayfield Farm near Lindstrom, Minn. She drove down with her husband, Mark Mayfield, and two daughters to pick up a dozen sheep.

Soon, one-by-one, Abdi's family and Hoch, along with his employee Josh Datta, cradled the bleating ewes and an ornery ram to move them onto their trailer. One ewe wriggled in Abdi's daughter's tight grip.

"Some of the lambs are almost as big as the ewes," Mayfield said.

"Nice," Abdi said.

Afterward, the girls sat near a tree, playing with Hoch's dogs.

Daggett rents land from her mother and has had a garden her entire adult life, but has daydreamed since college about running her own farm. The breeding pigs will help inure her from another cost but also give her a chance to protect a rare hog.

"We can help steward some of these breeds," she said.

Over coffee and toast and cider in the shed, Hoch says pigs are among the most diverse creatures on earth.

"They're smart, too," he said. "If they don't get enough fresh air and exercise, they get depressed. They just lay around and eat."

Daggett adds she's seen her pigs almost frolic in the pasture.

"Guineas [hogs] are like 55-pound barrels with peg legs," joked Hoch. "I've seen 'em jump."

Hocha short man, with glasses and strong grip from years on the farm — stands in the dirt yard and asks if he can give Daggett a hug.

They embrace.

"My family is going away," he said.

"We will take care of them," Daggett said.