Bidding on a PEAS pig

On Monday at about 12:45 p.m., eBay notified Julie Baldridge, a retired social worker in Whitefish using the online auction website for the first time, that she placed the winning bid on a pig—one currently noshing on scraps of food at Missoula's PEAS Farm.

Baldridge, 53, who grew up on a farm and ranch outside of Havre, has long purchased pork from local farmers, but this was different. Her daughter Shelby, a student at the University of Montana, interned at the farm all summer, working in the fields and watching the farm's six hogs grow from piglets into real porkers.

"Knowing my farmer has been something that's been a part of my life forever," Baldridge says. "But it's the first time in a long time I've actually been related to my farmer."

Baldridge forked over $1,109 for the hog, which will be butchered once it reaches 250 pounds. Garden City Harvest (GCH), a nonprofit that operates the PEAS (Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society) Farm in conjunction with UM, began the bidding last week at $589. The auction drew 20 bids.

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"Our hogs are raised here at the PEAS Farm in the upper Rattlesnake Valley with plenty of room to run, play, and dig," Garden City Harvest wrote in its eBay posting, its first ever auction. "They are fed organic garden scraps and organic, Montana-grown grains making for some very delicious meat!"

GCH estimates the hog, once butchered, will yield up to 175 pounds of meat, meaning Baldridge is paying more than $6 per pound.

"We're really excited," she says, "because it's an organic-fed, happy hog."

GCH is excited, too. Community Outreach Director Genevieve Jessop Marsh says the winning bid "absolutely" exceeded the organization's expectations.

Baldrige says she plans to share the meat with her three daughters, and has no concerns about becoming pigged-out.

"I love chorizo," she says. "You can do Italian sausage. You can do all sorts of different types of things with it...Plus, we are creative cooks enough that we can handle not getting tired of it."

But she's not sure where she'll store it all.

"We may have to look at increasing our freezer capacity," Baldrige says.

She may want to check eBay.

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