April 13, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

When pigs fly…

Meat in route from Craig to Littleton

Rohloffs send them to Colorado

When Frank and Tammy Stratton of Lakewood, Colorado sat down to write out their New Year’s resolutions in January, they never imagined that a few months later the world would be in the midst of a global pandemic. In fact, if you would have suggested it to them, they probably would have said “that will happen when pigs fly.”

The pandemic did happen and ‘when pigs fly’ is now the name of a program helping both area pork producers and people in need. The Strattons are purchasing pigs here in Stevens County, taking them to Colorado for processing, and then distributing the meat to charities in Colorado. This is helping people in both states.

COVID-19 started to affect farmers in Minnesota when processing plants had to shut down due to sick employees or limit the number of animals taken in for slaughter. Farmers had hundreds of animals ready to go but no place to take them. The dilemma hit the news with a lot of media coverage. That is when Frank Stratton’s mother, who lives in Alexandria, Minnesota, got on the phone and told her son about what was happening here.

Frank works in construction in Colorado and installs heating and air conditioning systems. He was working the next day and talking to a friend about how many of the animals are being destroyed. He thought there had to be a way to use those animals to help others, especially people going hungry.

That night a plan formed in his mind. He and his wife had just received their stimulus check and decided to use it to purchase some hogs, have them slaughtered locally and then donate the meat to area food shelves. The idea grew and soon he was looking for trailers and processors. He called over 200 processors across the country and found two who would be willing to take the animals. One of these specialized in processing wild game so was temporarily shut-down. They called up their furloughed employees and geared up for processing once again. This plant was located in Craig, Colorado.

Stratton then contacted LuAlan Rohloff from Morris and arranged to pick up the first load of hogs. He hit the ground running on Friday, May 1 after all the pieces came together. He made the first “When Pigs Fly ” run on May 4 purchasing 20 pigs from the Rohloff’s. He hauled the pigs across the country and delivered them to the processor. After processing, the meat was donated to the Food Bank of the Rockies and helped feed those in need.

With the help of generous friends and family, Stratton was able to make a second run, donating an additional 22 pigs to the cause. Because the calls kept coming in and the need continued, a GoFundMe page (gf.me/u/x2kvhz) was set up after the second run to keep the mission going. Thanks to the generosity of many, the runs continued with Stratton just completing his fifth run.

After the fifth run, a total of 120 pigs have been processed and about 21,600 pounds of pork donated to the needy. The meat has gone to Food Bank of the Rockies in Palisade; St. Michael’s Catholic Church Meals on Wheels in Craig; Inter-Faith Food Bank of Craig; Craig Morman Church; MasterWorks (a company in Craig that donated meat to people out of work); Moffat County High School fundraiser; Tin Shed Food Bank in Wheat Ridge; and South Fellowship Food Bank in Littleton. All in Colorado.

Stratton will be doing his sixth run this week as he has almost received enough donations to cover the cost. They have also set up a Venmo account called @Frank-Stratton-5. He plans to continue to make the runs as long as the donations come in.

On January 1 no one could have predicted the pandemic or that pigs would fly. However, they are now both happening as generous people work to bring animals, that would have been destroyed, to feed the hungry. Thus making ‘pigs fly’ from Minnesota to those in need in Colorado. It is a message of hope, determination, and that we are all in this together. By working together, we make good things happen.

Katie Erdman