I’m a proud pig farmer. Growing up where I could see the Chicago skyline from my backyard, and the farthest neighbor was just across the street, that isn’t exactly something I thought I would find myself saying in my “happily ever after.” (That’s me on my sister’s lap with our neighborhood group of kids in LaGrange, Ill.)
My husband might say I have become fixated with everything pig. I take several selfies (or felfies) with baby pigs each day and refer to myself as a “pork dork.” Yep, I think I’m hooked and I’m proud of it.
I’m also proud of pork producers.
After spending three days at a conference for the National Pork Industry Council, watching the sea of colored polo shirts and nametags I find myself beaming to be a part of an organization that cares so much about its animals and its farmers. There were fantastic speakers and mentors to listen to and hear how their stories applied to ours as farmers.
One presenter was a co-founder of Greenpeace and made the decision to leave the group. He parted when the organization’s claims became too radical and it ignored all of the science that clearly went against what they were saying. It was an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking presentation.
Top veterinarians were also in attendance and shared their thoughts and opinions on hot topics. Such a great effort was placed on bringing tools to producers to better reach the consumer and begin filling the gap from farm to fork. From preventing foreign animal diseases to utilizing the best smart phone apps on the farm, it was all available for us to hear about, take in, and of course download.
I think it is safe to say that the pork industry is an innovative group of extremely intelligent and innovative people and it is something I am proud to be a part of.
But it was after those meetings that the real pride sank in. When the polos came off and the nice dinner clothes came on, we headed out to supper with our family and farm team members.
I looked down to one end of the table and watched our consulting vet as he moved from person to person, taking special care to teach at every moment he can. Maybe it was about how to keep a pig warm once it’s born; maybe it was about motivating and engaging employees, the message changes from person to person – a custom made conversation each time.
He is constantly filled with quirky stories of farms that he’s visited around the world and how they are doing certain things to care for their animals. He usually calls the chef to our table to either compliment or educate him/her on the way his pork was served. I find his advice and his stories fascinating and he always motivates me to improve my farm and my pigs.
Seated toward the middle of the table are my mother and father in-law – the ones who began this great place I now call home to my family. They are the No. 1 reason I have such passion and love for what I do.
Of course, they must be a little bit crazy since they let this city girl just dive on into their farm and start playing with their pigs, but I love them all the same. Ten years ago, I couldn’t tell you where exactly my food came from and was pretty sure everyone who lived on a farm was required to wear a pair of denim overalls. Since then, I’ve been given every opportunity by my husband and his family to try new ideas, to see what fits for me on the farm, and then when we find it, be the best at it.
So I headed straight to the farrowing house and I haven’t left since. It is a place where I can feel proud of the pigs that I take care of and the responsibilities I have each and every day.
Going to these meetings always gives me a chance to step back and see all of the great opportunities I’ve been given as a pork producer. But upon returning home, there was nothing better than to change into my blue coveralls and scrub cap and head back out into the barns to care for my pigs.How fortunate I am to have such a wonderful farm and great people to look up to and guide me through this crazy journey as a pig farmer – all without ever owning a pair of denim overalls.