AMHERST - A once-thriving industry is now all but dead in Cumberland County with the closure of one of two remaining hog farms.
Jo-Mar Farms in Warren has not been used to raise hogs since last fall and will soon be done marketing the hogs it has been sending to the United States.
Joe VanVulpen is continuing to do some inspection work in the U.S., but he'll soon be completely out of an industry that two decades ago included more than 40 hog farms across Cumberland County.
"I'm totally shut down," VanVuplen said. "I haven't had a pig on the farm since last September."
Late last week, Gerald Vermeulen of Canning announced he's closing his pig farm, one of the largest in the province at 4,000 hogs.
At one time, VanVulpen's farm was one of the largest sow producers in Nova Scotia and he had another 20,000 hogs in the United States.
VanVulpen is all too familiar with Vermeulen's situation and understands the decision made by the chair of Pork Nova Scotia.
"I've been there, I know what he's saying and what he's saying is true," VanVulpen said.
"These are almost impossible times to be in the hog industry. We've lost so much money in the last few years. We've lost our equity. We lost pretty much everything."
VanVulpen's decision leaves Martin Vissers in Streets Ridge as the only hog farm left in Cumberland County and VanVulpen is unsure how much longer he'll last.
Statistics Canada is showing a 59 per cent drop in hog production over the past year, with only 13 farms remaining from a time when there were more than 90.
VanVulpen isn't blaming government for the industry's fate. He said a number of conditions combined have led to its collapse, including high feed and production costs, higher fuel costs and higher insurance at the same time as low prices.
"It's a relief in some respects not having to worry about how you're going to make ends meet, but the other side is I've invested a lot here over the years," he said.
VanVulpen said the challenges being faced by the hog industry are no different than other sectors of the agriculture industry.
He suggests people take a drive along some of the county's rural roads and count the number of abandoned or closed farms. He feels the number would surprise a lot of people.