Delaware county pigs can fly.
Or at least they can, when transported by airline to their new home in Washington state.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, Bill Wehlage and his wife, Karen, owners of Bacon Acres Farm in Zena, sent a registered Tamworth boar to breeders in Washington that were in need of a male boar.
The flight, out of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport near Cave Springs, Arkansas, took place on Delta Airlines.
To make it happen, Wehlage had his boar examined by the farm's veterinarian. Then he took the boar to the airport, where airline officials examined the boar's ticket, registration papers and crate.
Wehlage said after posing for lots of pictures taken by fellow passengers, the boar was loaded into the aircraft as cargo for an ultimate delivery to the farm in the northwestern corner of the United States.
How it all started
Wehlage lived in Oklahoma for several years as a child and previously lived in northwest Arkansas.
A member of the U.S. Army for 22 years, Wehlage served as a military policeman before being deployed to Iraq.
After his return from Iraq, Wehlage attended college. He later returned to the U.S. Army as army chaplain for the remainder of his service. His deployments have included Afghanistan, Bosnia and Africa.
In January 2013, following his retirement, Wehlage wanted to find a place to settle down with his wife.
The couple bought land between Zena and Jay, where they have been farming for three years, raising Tamworth pigs.
Tamworth pigs are a heritage breed of swine.Wehlage said the bread is considered rare, adding before the couple established their farm, only one other farm had the breed in the U.S.
Why Tamworth Pigs
There were lots of reasons the Wehlages chose to raise Tamworth pigs.
“When World War II occurred, the U.S stopped eating lard and instead started using vegetable oil," Wehlage said. "Farmers started selling what they like to call 'supermodel pigs' due to their large muscles and leanness.
"Although, some may say that their meat did not have as good of a taste and caused the 'blandification of pork.' This means that pork now has to be seasoned before cooked in order to have taste."
As an old heritage breed, Wehlage said, Tamworth swine were sold, almost to the point of extinction, leading to a high demand from consumers.
Wehlage said as word has spread of his farm, he has repeat customers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana farms.
He believes shipping his stock to Washington is only the beginning. He has been in contact with breeders in Hawaii and Arizona.
“It is more than the money," Wehlage said. "We want to preserve this breed.”
More about Tamworth
Tamworths are a breed of a pig that originated in Ireland. Tamworth pigs breed characteristics include being a source of lean meat, having litters of pigs that are vigorous and have a high rate of survivability, and having a mature weight for both sexes of 500 to 600 pounds. It was traditionally known as the bacon breed, because the breed thrives on low energy foods and produced meat and bacon that was lean and fine grained.
“We sell animals that you can trust and bless your family with," Wehlage said. "They breathe fresh air, live on real grass and soil, and are fed healthy food.”
For more information, persons interested may contact Wehlage at 580-695-9402 or visit www.baconacresfarm.com or by searching "bacon-acres-farm" on Facebook.