by Cheryl Baehr
The Backeses' loved ones had reason to question their decision. Instead of retiring to a villa on a golf course in Boca Raton, the pair decided instead to buy property in Seymour, Missouri. They had fallen in love with St. Louis and its environs while traveling around the country attending their son's wrestling matches and knew they wanted to relocate. They just didn't know what they were going to do with the property.
John Backes began researching sustainable hog farming and approached his wife with the idea. "I thought, "Oh God, that sounds like the most disgusting thing in the world," Marina Backes recalls. "But then we visited Niman Ranch, one of the other farms that uses the sort of practices that we wanted to use." That visit sealed the deal for the Backeses and instilled in them a sense of mission for raising their livestock.
"We breed our own hogs, rotate them through the pastures and give them a stress-free environment," John Backes explains. "Everything that goes into them will end up as part of the end product, so we want to make sure it's the best."
The website for Bolyard's Meat & Provisions, which sells Circle B pork, boasts that pigs at the ranch get belly rubs, courtesy of John. Marina says it's all true: "We're hands-on here."
Marina Backes took a break from producing magnificent pork to share her thoughts on the St. Louis dining scene, what is never allowed in her kitchen and her last meal on earth. Spoiler: It involves pork.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? The amount of work that goes into truly pasture-raising hogs -- the transparency of our farming practices.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Getting up and working, whether it be farm chores or marketing and delivery.
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Turn every dollar I have lost into a dime in my bank account.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? The move toward local.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Gerard Craft [of Niche].
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Sense of humor.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Growing, expanding and developing as the clientele becomes more food-aware. I love the farm-to-table restaurants.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Margarine and vegetable shortening.
What is your after-work hangout? My family room or kitchen, with a cocktail.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Bourbon and any kind of meat.
What would be your last meal on earth? Asian-roasted pork belly, pork cheek and any high-end California cabernet.