The Minnesota Pork Board announced it has awarded five, $1,000 scholarships to individuals pursuing careers with an emphasis in pork. The MPB scholarship program goal is to encourage and support young people in their decision to enter one of the many occupations within the swine industry.

The scholarship recipient selection panel, comprised of pork producers and industry professionals, awarded scholarships to: Sarah Jacobs, the daughter of Randy and Joyce Jacobs of Rushmore; Justin Johnston, the son of Lee and Judy Johnston of Morris; Leah Sample, the daughter of Mark and Teresa Sample of Le Sueur; Ethan Spronk, the son of Arwin and LuAnn Spronk of Edgerton; and Seth Spronk, the son of Randy and Beth Spronk of Edgerton.

"The members of the Human Capital Committee believe it’s our obligation to put into place programs and tools that can help develop and encourage the next generation of livestock professionals,” said Ed Hubly, a swine nutritionist and committee member from New Ulm.

This is the first year of the MPB scholarship program. Applicants had to be Minnesota residents attending a two- or four-year institution and pursuing an undergraduate degree that focuses on swine production or related field. The application process included their plans for future involvement in pork production and/or the pork industry, an essay on a pork industry challenge and their ideas for solving the issue, two letters of reference and a professional resume.

“The selection committee members were very impressed with the quality of applicants and selecting only five was a tremendous challenge,” Hubly said. “We feel good about the quality of individuals pursing ag careers and believe the future of our swine industry is in good hands.”

Information on individual scholarship winners:

Sarah Jacobs of Rushmore, the daughter of Randy and Joyce Jacobs, begins her junior year this fall at South Dakota State University where her major is agricultural education with a special emphasis on meat sciences. Jacobs grew up in a pork raising family where swine played a big role in her 4-H and FFA careers. With her father’s help, she started Sarah Jacobs Show Pigs, a purebred Yorkshire show pig business. This entrepreneurial project helped her earn the Worthington FFA Chapter’s Star in Agribusiness and the State FFA Degree. Jacobs is a member of the SDSU Meats Judging Team and secretary of the SDSU Meats Science Club. She also works at the SDSU Meats Lab as a technician where she focuses on safe animal harvesting methods and fabrication. Jacobs has volunteered on many occasion at t he Minnesota Pork Board’s state fair booths.

“With my 4-H and FFA involvement, it wasn’t a hard decision to choose agricultural education as my major,” she said. “This way, I will be able to teach our future generations about the great things that agriculture and the pork industry has to offer.”

Justin Johnston of Morris, the son of Lee and Judy Johnston, attends the University of Minnesota where he is earning an animal science degree. This fall, he will be a senior and will be completing his undergraduate research thesis, which focuses on meat science. He grew up on a hobby farm, and through his 4-H involvement exhibited hogs at the county and state levels. He served as the Stevens County Pork Ambassador and as the Minnesota State Pork Ambassador. Johnston says as he met more and more people in the pork industry and gained additional swine experience, it influenced his career decision. This summer Johnston is intern ing at a Cargill facility in Illinois managing a ham fabrication line. His experience also includes working as a U of M Meats Lab technician and at Dombrovski Meats Company in Foley where he completed tasks associated with meat exports. He is a member of the U of M’s Collegiate Livestock Judging Team and Block and Bridle Club.

“For the future, I plan to invest all I have gained into the meat science aspect of the industry,” Johnston said.

Leah Sample of Le Sueur, the daughter of Mark and Teresa Sample, will enter her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota this fall where her major is animal science with a swine production emphasis. Sample serves as Le Sueur County Pork Ambassador and is swine superintendent for the Le Sueur County Fair. In addition to showing pigs in 4-H, Sample demonstrated her swine knowledge as a two-time State Fair Swine Interview finalist. Sample volunteers to grill and serve pork samples at Minnesota Pork Board promotional events, which she says are an excellent way to answer consumer questions about raising pigs and to increase agricultural awareness. Sample works as an office assistant at the U of M College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences and has studied abroad as part of the People-to-People exchange program.

“After graduation, I would like a job representing the pork industry,” Sample said. “The industry needs more pork producers spreading the word to consumers that we do everything we can to ensure our pork is safe and wholesome.”

Ethan Spronk of Edgerton, the son of Arwin and LuAnn Spronk, is a pre-veterinary student at South Dakota State University. This fall he completes his bachelor degrees in animal science and agricultural marketing and will then begin earning his veterinary medicine degree with a specialization in swine. Spronk’s experience spans hands-on swine care and nutrition in his family’s hog production facilities and feed mill, to microbiology research for Rural Technologies Inc. and swine farrowing studies with Novartis Animal Health. He is vice president of the SDSU Pre-Vet Club and a member of the SDSU Meats Judging Team. Spronk’s interest in global food issues has taken him to China where he learned more about that country’s swine production and research. He attribut es his growing interest in agricultural policy and legislative involvement to the commitment he has seen from family members.

“I recognize how much public opinion affects how the industry operates and I feel that as a veterinarian I would be able to properly defend and represent the industry, while maintaining the highest regard for the animals’ wellbeing and safety,” Spronk said.

Seth Spronk of Edgerton, the son of Randy and Beth Spronk, maintains a 4.0 grade point average as he enters his final year of college at South Dakota State University where he majors in agricultural and biosystems engineering. His goal is to become a fourth generation livestock and crop farmer. Spronk says the complexity of agriculture drives him to develop a skill set that will meet future career challenges. Spronk is captain of the SDSU Quarter Scale Tractor Design Team and a member of the SDSU Meats Judging Team. He helped construct, wire and program the Ventilation Demonstration Trailer and developed teaching materials for use with the trailer. He helps maintain and repair electrical, mechanical and computer equipment in the family’s swine facilities and also maintains agricultural equipme nt used in crop production, including the application of GPS technology for field mapping and fertilization rate applications. He believes his science background and communication skills will help him be a voice and advocate for the agriculture community and livestock production.

“I have witnessed firsthand the impact that individuals can have on industry policy and public perception,” he said. “I intend to do everything in my power to have a positive influence on the pork industry.”