This year, National Pork Board officials will train more than 200 producers to help them better communicate with their neighbors and communities about pork production in the 21st Century.
“One way to tell the industry’s story is from a producer armed with the facts,” says Danita Rodibaugh, a producer from Resnsselaer, Ind., and NPB vice president.
The program, Operation Main Street, began in September 2004 as an idea to upgrade the industry’s image on a neighbor-to-neighbor basis. A pilot program involving 14 states and more than 20 pork producers began in December to train producers to make speeches before local groups such as civic clubs.
The project's success has already surfaced. The New Ulm Journal, of New Ulm, Minn. showcased producer Julie Becker’s presentation to the city's Chamber of Commerce, which then presented information on modern pork production to thousands of Minnesota newpaper readers.
Non-farmers who completed surveys after hearing presentations from "Operation Main Street" participants said the information changed their views of pork production.
“I came from the old way of farming, and thought confined raising of animals was cruel,” said one civic member's survey form. “But I now understand the economics of it.”
Pork producers also are being armed with new tools at state and local trade shows to take back to their communities. This new tool kit includes business cards that producers can pass out to local restaurants to thank them for using pork, and encourage expanded use on menus. The cards also offer producers ideas on how to become more involved locally.
“Operation Main Street and the tool kit say to producers ‘this is your industry. No one can promote pork better than you’,” says Rodibaugh.
She continues: “It's difficult to maintain a negative view of an industry if you put a face on it, and tell your side of the story when misinformed critics attack it,” Rodibaugh says.
National Pork Board