“As a Peruvian-born, first generation immigrant to the US, I celebrate and support the achievements of people of color and want to continue to set an example that we can work for ourselves and build our own futures. Diversity, however, encompasses more than just race…”
-Claudia Gutierrez, High Desert Hogs
We got the chance to get to know Claudia Gutierrez, founder and owner of High Desert Hogs. High Desert Hogs is a 100% woman-owned, 100% Latina-owned pasture-raised pork business. Ethically raising local, delicious, heritage pigs for your consumption.
In celebration of International Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we wanted to hear from a female farmer and rancher in Central Oregon. Read the full interview below!
You can find Claudia and her hog-wild family at her ranch in Redmond, where she is happy to give a tour and introduce you to her porky-pals (call ahead to schedule a time to visit). Stay up-to-date with her hog-ranching adventures through her Instagram @high_desert_hogs. Claudia posts equally educational and entertaining content daily!
Q: What do you love about being a rancher?
Claudia: I would have to say the fact that farming/ranching/being a food producer isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle and one that fits my personality well.
I worked in the corporate world for just over a decade and never really understood the need to be in an office at a desk for 40 hours of my week. Nowadays I probably work about the same amount time wise, but it’s physical, it’s outdoors, and it’s on my own schedule. Plus, this kind of work really challenges me to face my weaknesses/opportunities, which inspires me to find long-term solutions for these problems. This helps me grow both as a business owner and as a person.
Q: What drew you to Central Oregon?
Claudia: I came to Central Oregon in May of 2020 to complete a farming internship through Rogue Farm Corps. Having lived in Seattle for 8 years prior to moving out here, it was a complete change of scenery for me. I was drawn to the mountains, the fresh air, the clearly defined seasons, and especially the sun! I love how much vitamin D I can get over the summer and that helps carry me through the gloomy months of winter…. but I also lived in Canada for a few years growing up, so I love the snow too.
In addition to the weather and the views, I fell in love with the farming community out here. So many farmers I’ve met have been warm and welcoming and have shared their stories, successes, and friendships with me. It feels like many of us are rooting for each other and I appreciate the support that I have gotten from fellow farmers in the year that I have been raising pigs!
“…There are struggles that women [farmers] and trans-people [who farm] will come up against that men [farmers] will take for granted…”
Q: What are you looking forward to this year?
Claudia: I’m really excited that this year I will be breeding four gilts (first time mothers) that were born and raised on my farm! This is a pretty big deal because all of my initial breeding stock were purchased from farms across Oregon, so that I could start my own herd. Now, the first four ladies that were born from my initial stock are old enough to be bred and I will officially have a second generation closed herd.
Another thing I’m excited about is continuing to work on soap making! Last year I partnered with Cultivate Farms to make this lovely brand of soap using lard that we called “Hogwash” and I’m excited to expand our scent offerings! (Go check out our soaps on their website!)
Q: You are highlighted in our Food and Farm Directory with multiple diversity indicators, can you tell us why this is important to you?
Claudia: If you look at the history of agriculture in the US, you will realize that it is an erasure of history for the non-white majority that helped sustain crops and farms when it was convenient for the US economy, only to be discriminated against later when it proved to be “problematic”.
Land was stolen from native and indigenous peoples to accommodate European migrants; farms and plantations were built and run on the backs of slaves; Mexican and other migrant workers were brought into the country by the US government multiple times over the last century to help fill labor shortages during wars; in Oregon, Chinese and Japanese immigrants were redlined and not allowed to buy farm land. During WWII Chinese and Japanese immigrants were placed in US concentration camps and ostracized by their former communities.
Oregon has a history of exclusionary laws and practices dating from the mid-1800s; for example, although Oregon did not participate in slavery, according to my research, it DID participate in black exclusionary laws that forced “free blacks” to leave the state or be punished; in fact, it was illegal to be black and move to Oregon until 1925. So, is it surprising that “only 3% of Oregon’s farm owner-operators identify as a race other than white” (according to data shared by Rogue Farm Corps and FoFF)?
As a Peruvian-born, first generation immigrant to the US, I celebrate and support the achievements of people of color and want to continue to set an example that we can work for ourselves and build our own futures. Diversity, however, encompasses more than just race.
The diversity indicator is important to me because while the majority of farms in the US are owned by straight white men in their 50’s and 60’s who, potentially, have had that land in their families for multiple generations. The next generation of farmers no longer looks like that majority. Like me, there are many people who are realizing that the “dream” we were sold in our childhoods and adolescences is not what brings us joy and is creating a disconnect between us and the world. It is important for these people to see and learn from others who understand that disillusion and desire to live differently without feeling judged, critiqued, or otherwise shunned. There are struggles that first generation farmers will come up against that multiple generation farmers may take for granted, there are struggles that women and trans-people will come up against that men will take for granted, and there are struggles that neuro-divergent people will come up against that neuro-typical people will take for granted. But the point is, the more diverse and inclusive we can make the farming community, the more the community as a whole can and will benefit.
Q: What is something that excites you that people might not know?
Claudia: Figure skating. I love the costumes, I love the sound of skates gliding on the ice, I love love love the choreography, and don’t even get me started on how fun it is to watch the Zamboni clean the ice. When I was younger, and lived in Canada, I actually took figure skating lessons. By the time I was 7 I was learning to do some pretty fancy jumps. Unfortunately, that career ended when we moved to Caracas… turns out ice skating is not that big in Venezuela, go figure.
Want to meet more female farmers and ranchers? Visit getataste.org or look in our print Food and Farm Directory for the women-owned and women-operated indicators.
Want more “Women in Ag” content? Comment below, or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org