Now that the weather has broken, Middleburgh pig farmer Michael Lepore promises to get busy with his spring cleaning.
Unlike most homeowners, his spring cleaning is not confined to airing out the blankets, raking the lawn and unwrapping the lawn furniture.
Mr. Lepore last week promised to complete work on a fence that will prevent his 70 pigs from getting near Durfee Road.
The pigs on the road and little road maintenance issue has been going on for years, officials said Mr. Lepore said.
Nearly 20 local, county and state officials met earlier this month to try to resolve the problem.
Mr. Lepore did not attend the meeting.
Standing on a rutted dirt road that leads from his home to his barn, Mr. Lepore Thursday morning, said there are problems with pigs getting out right now but soon, there will be no issues.
He said he owns 125 acres of land and has fenced off a one and a half-acre area with a three-strand electric fence about 2,000 feet off the road. He will also have a corral with a roof.
The fence, Mr. Lepore agreed, “needs a little serving,” but once that work is done, in less than a month, the pigs on the road problem should be over.
“All the pigs are going down there and you won't see a pig,” he said.
“I'm going to keep them off the road and down below...
“No one is going to see pigs anymore on the road.”
He agreed “everything is a mess” but some of the work would begin last weekend, Mr. Lepore said.
“I'm working on it. It will happen now.”
At the joint meeting, state, local and county officials said they have spoken to Mr. Lepore before and he is agreeable but does not follow through. Last week, Mr. Lepore said the work will be done.
“I couldn't put up a fence when it was 20 below,” he said.
He has tried to keep the pigs off the road but he was sick this winter and “the pigs are getting out more this year,” he said.
“I'm trying...It's not just talk.”
Town officials, though, have said they have asked him to fence in his pigs for several years, with little results.
Outside of Mr. Lepore's property, the dead-end road is filled with hoof prints, a few empty bread bag wrappers and some piles of pig waste. On Thursday morning, there was a herd of about 15 pigs sunning themselves in a field near the road. They sometimes wandered off the field (there was no fence) onto to the road, and warmed themselves next to a mini-van that recently arrived at the farm.
Mr. Lepore said he has been in the business for many years and the problems have only been recently, and did not occur under any other prior town highway leadership.
While he sees the issues of town officials, he has his own beef, once the pigs are off the road, he wants his road maintained.
Once the pigs are fenced in, “I want my road serviced,” he said noting the water that has dug a trench a quarter of the way down the road. “The pigs do not do that.”
The road, he added, was sometimes solid ice from the gate that leaves his driveway down toward his barn. There is one seasonal home past his barn.
“After you don't see a pig I want it done. I don't want to go through another winter with solid ice...
“You can get severely hurt on this road.
Road conditions during the winter make it difficult to get deliveries of feed and for helpers to come to the farm.
Road maintenance is one of the few benefits that he gets from his town taxes, he agreed. He has an exemption as a farmer and meets the requirement for the exemption despite some questioning by officials.
Once the pig problem is eliminated, the road crew needs to maintain the road.
“After that there is no excuse not to do this road.”
Mr. Lepore said he is not a novice and knows what is needed to raise pigs.
“This is nothing new...It's no hobby. I'm growing and selling hogs...
“Without guys like me, they'll be less people eating pork sandwiches.”
Despite what some people have said, noting that he has a problem with town representatives coming on his private property and taking pictures, he does have farm equipment, pointing to a tractor, a loader and other items.
During the winter, he brought water down from his house to the barn but he does not want to use his barn anymore because it is too rough. That is why he is putting the pigs in the fenced-in area closer to his house.
Mr. Lepore noted that there have been no complaints about the conditions of his pigs.
Some are a little skinny this time of the year but overall they are in good health, he said, noting that Ag and Markets agents check out his farm every year.
“My animals are healthy.”
The pigs are fed and do have water.
“I do have water in the barn, give me a break. The hogs would be dead.”
He said he may have had up to 300 pigs at one time but currently has about 70. The number fluctuates.
“The number goes up and down,” he said. “You get a bunch and then you sell some.”
Ag and Markets said he could have up to 1,000 pigs on the farm but he does not want that many because he does not want to get into a manure system.
“I'm trying to keep it (the number) down.”
Mr. Lepore, who transporting some hogs in his white van down Durfee Road to his barn Thursday morning, admits there is a problem, but said he is not the only one at fault.
“I understand their point too,” he said. “I'm trying to run a little better operation...
“They do have an issue, the town but I'm going to correct it. But don't just blame me.”