“I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds.” The National FFA Organization Creed begins with these words and it inspires us FFA members to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. This brings up the question: What is the future of agriculture. Long story short, it’s bright.

By 2050 the world’s population is estimated to grow to 9 billion. According to the United Nations, this means that farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food to feed the growing population. While this is a daunting task, it also provides a great opportunity for everyone involved in agriculture. Now, more than ever, the entire world will rely on agriculture to provide for their basic needs. The science involved with agriculture to make crops and livestock more efficient and better producing will improve and benefit the world. However, some may view this science as controversial and react negatively towards it. But, I believe that the next generation of agriculture has another tool in its tool box.

Today, it seems like everybody is on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs are popular sites to share your thoughts and ideas. Social media is also a great way for farmers to share their story, and the younger generation is more tech savvy. It’s a great match. When people like you listen to their side of the story, the truth is told and people are more informed.

What will my role be? As a senior in high school interested in agriculture, I realize that agriculture is diverse. There’s a lot you can do. I want to be an Ag teacher. I want to educate young people who are interested in agriculture, share my passion, and inspire them to be the best they can be.

The future of agriculture is indeed bright. The future of the world depends on agriculture, and I believe that agriculture can provide for the world despite having to produce 70 percent more food by 2050. The last paragraph in the National FFA Organization Creed sums up what I’m trying to say. “I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

Webster’s dictionary describes apathy as “the feeling of not having much emotion or interest”. Given all the discussion that’s happening in the media about food and how it’s grown or raised, some days I just wish that people would show a little apathy, or maybe not care as much or take such an interest. This is especially true when their interest happen to be different that mine.
Okay, that’s not really true. I’m glad people care about what they eat and are interested in where they food comes from and the people that grow it. I just wish they’d try a little harder to actually connect with the people that are involved in food production and not any random “expert from the internet”. I know that’s easier said than done. How do you find a farmer? I actually checked out the yellow pages from the Mankato/New Ulm phone book and found a number of listings under “Farms”. This brings up two questions; 1) does anyone use the yellow pages anymore and 2) if you called one of those farms, would the farmers actually talk to you?
I have a suggestion. Check out the Pig3D website from the MN Pork Board and the MN Pork Producers Association. You’ll find it at http://www.pig3d.com. You’ll also find videos showing real pig farmers and great resource information. There’s even a spot to send a question to a real farmer so that you can get an honest answer. If Facebook or Twitter are your style, check out #RealPigFarming. Farmers are talking and showing pictures about what they do every day. The MN State Fair will be held the end of August and that’s another great spot to talk to farmers.
I am so lucky. As a pig farmer I wake up each day knowing where most of my food comes from. I understand some of you have questions on food safety and animal welfare practices. Please ask them. Just ask them from someone who knows what they are talking about and are living the experience every day.

This week I attended a media training event hosted by the MN Pork Board. This exercise was designed to help us become more comfortable in our interviews with the media. However, much of what we discussed was developing our key messages, which are specific points we want to get across whether we’re visiting with the media, the general public or our neighbors.

Mary Milla, our instructor, encouraged us to have “Front of the Box” messages. To help illustrate this point, look at the front of a pizza box. All the things that attract us to that pizza, “thin & crispy”, “ready to eat in 10-12 minutes” or “all natural” are on the front of the box. However, many of us spend our time using “Back of the Box” messages when visiting with consumers or the media. Flip your pizza box over and look at the back. It consists of information such as baking directions, ingredients, history of the company, etc, etc. Generally the information, while important, isn’t all that interesting and can be rather technical.

We in agriculture are instructed to “Tell our Story”, yet when it comes to doing so we often fall into the trap of talking about technical information, using jargon unfamiliar to our audience. Boy, that’s really going to endear them to what we’re doing as farmers…NOT.

Using key messages from the “front of the box” that have a higher impact on our audience and allow them to identify with us closer will help us become more successful speakers. They will remember what we said and not just get lost in the words.

Thank you Mary for all your help. I will never look at the front of a pizza box the same way again.

For those of us that wear multiple hats, which are most of us, introducing yourself at a meeting can be a bit of an exercise. Recently I attended an agribusiness meeting and all the attendees introduced themselves. As we went around the room, I debated list myself as a farmer first, or as an employee of Hubbard Feeds? As the microphone finally made it to me, I went with farmer first, then Hubbard employee, although I ended up stumbling through my introduction and wanting to have a “do-over.”

The whole experience did get me to think about how we view ourselves, especially those of us that have jobs off the farm. I know it depends on the situation, but really how do you view yourself? Who are you?

At the end of the day (and the beginning), I am a farmer. It’s the lifestyle I grew up with and it’s the way I live now. Being a farmer influences my decision making and my values. I have a soft spot in my heart for animals and want to give them the best care possible. I also know that these animals are a source of income for us and a source of food for others. As a farmer I tend to be frugal, practical and sometimes a little skeptical although some might call it guarded. As farmers, we’re in tune with the rhythm of life, the seasons and how nature controls so much of what we do. We deal with life and death and both can affect us dramatically.

Farming may not be glamorous and high profile but it is important as we’ve seen by the increasing interest in knowing where your food comes. Farmers come in all shapes and styles and use a variety of methods to produce food. While there may be differences, there are also similarities. Farmers want to grow crops, raise animals and sell their products so that others can eat. Farmers want to farm. Perhaps more than any other occupation, it gets in your blood and becomes not just your job, but your lifestyle. Yep, I am a farmer.

My daughter Beth has a whiteboard in her room. Every night before she goes to bed, I write a phrase with the letter “B” on it. It’s a fun routine we do that’s meant to encourage her and end the night on a positive note. Recently before an important cross country meet, I wrote the phrase, “Don’t stop “B” lieving”.

How many of us in agriculture need to take those words to heart? Sometimes it would be easier to stop believing. Poor weather, low yielding crops, employees that don’t have our animals’ best interests at heart and organizations that want to demonize agriculture can get the best of us some days. At times it feels like the world is against agriculture. For a group of people that feeds the world, it would easy to stop caring, to stop believing in the positive aspects of agriculture.

But that’s not who we are. Despite challenges, we believe there will be another spring, another fall and another crop. Despite those who say we mistreat our animals, we believe that protecting them from the elements and each other provides the best care and welfare. For those consumers that may not understand what we do, we believe that by telling our story, we can make a difference.

We provide safe, healthy, and affordable food not just for a nation, but for the world. As pork producers each pound of pork we produce uses 41% less water than 40 years ago. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 35% at the same time.

Steve Perry had it right. Don’t Stop Believing.

Recently, two events happened that made me proud of my sons and also made me realize they are starting to find their voice for agriculture. The first involved Adam and his response an editorial post he had received on Twitter from the Star Tribune. Dale and I were on our way to Lanesboro biking when Adam called and said he wanted to comment on a post regarding gestation stalls. He wanted to confirm a few facts with me before responding. We talked through the situation and he retweeted his response about animal care and worker safety. I’m happy to say the Star Tribune acknowledged his tweet and recognized the points he made.

About the same time this was happening, we received a picture from Brett showing an advertisement for meatless Monday on the napkin container at the U’s cafeteria. He and I discussed the value of lean protein and the sustainability of modern production. Brett’s comment was “I’ll try to make that a point of conversation sometime.”

I realize these aren’t significant events, but what I’m most pleased with is that the boys are aware of this misinformation and feel compelled to acknowledge and respond to it. It’s a small step, but as their comfort level grows, they’ll have a greater impact.

This past week my son Brett participated in the Pork Ambassador program at Farmfest. I had the opportunity to watch most of the Ambassadors give their presentations in the MN Soybean Association tent. I was impressed by the knowledge these kids had and the ability to talk in public about the most challenging issues facing pork production today. These kids did not shy away from acknowledging that sow housing and the consumers’ disconnect with agriculture are concerns many of them have. While each Ambassador has a little different perspective based on their life experiences, they all had a good understanding of modern production and gave their opinions on what could be done to improve these challenges.

On Saturday my son Adam and I did an Oink Outing at the Hopkins Farmers market. Once again I impressed with Brad, our summer intern and Sarah, our past Ambassador and their willingness to talk to the public about modern farming. Twice now I have watched Sarah interact with someone who started out friendly but then became sarcastic about pig farming. Both times Sarah remained professional and polite and stuck to the issue. Even when these people would walk off with a rude comment, Sarah never lost her composure.

I am so impressed and proud of these young individuals. They are passionate about the pork industry and are eager to find careers and ways to stay involved. I know there are more of these types of young individuals out there and that makes me feel positive about the future of agriculture. We just need to make sure some other industry doesn’t hire them away from us.

I never did a post following the 5K in Duluth on June 21. Sorry about that.

I finished the 5K and did pretty well. I am harder on myself, I suppose, than I should be but I had to walk some of the time. Still over all, I completed my first 5K and I haven’t stopped running!

As a matter of fact, we got home from Duluth on that Sunday afternoon and I started looking on line for my next 5K. That will be next week on July 17th in Minneapolis. I will be running the Torchlight 5K.

I have enjoyed my initial training program to work myself up to the 5K. My goal is to maintain what I have been doing and continue to improve on my time and distance. The added health benefits are something I really appreciate and enjoy.

I love being able to tell people about the healthy aspects of adding more pork to their diets as well. With my job and going to the many different events I am able to let many people know about pork and it’s nutritional value.

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For many of us in the farming community, this spring was challenging to say the least. Extremely wet weather not only delayed planting, but forced many of us to talk about “preventive planting.” We’re now facing the warm days of summer and it is hard to believe that summer is really here and almost half over.

June was a big “pork” month for the Stevermer family. If you recall from my last blog, both Adam and Brett had the opportunity to take part in a couple of agricultural tours through the MN Pork Board. It was extremely beneficial for both boys. Even though they have been exposed to many aspects of agriculture, they still came away learning something new. One thing that made the biggest impression was the use of technology in agriculture. From packing plants to drones to manufacturing, technology helps make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and even safer for the workers.

A highlight for us is our weekend in Duluth at Grandma’s Marathon. This is the fourth year the MN Pork Board has been a sponsor and we now have people looking for us. They have come to appreciate the great taste of pork (especially on a cold morning after a long run) and are also starting to understand that pork is a healthy, lean protein.

There are many great opportunities to learn, for kids and adults, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.

Wow, it is hard to believe that when I jokingly stated maybe I should run the 5K in Duluth, I would actually end up doing it. I started back in April with training and on Friday, June 21 I will finally be running my first 5K.

Yes, I said my “first” 5K. I like the feeling I get from being able to run like I have been. I am not fast but I have been feeling very good when I get done.

I find myself making healthier eating choices as well. It truly does all tie together.

I worked an Oink Outing at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market this past weekend.  There was a woman and her sister that stopped to ask a couple questions about eating pork. Their initial question was “Is it true that pork causes high blood pressure?” This is a question that I am sure a lot of people have had. My answer….No. It does depend on what cut of pork you are talking about; if you mean ham, bacon or sausage – very possible due to the curing processes that are used, however, if you mean fresh pork – no, not from what I know about pork. Fresh pork chops, loin roasts and tenderloins are not high in sodium as there is no extra processing done to them other than being cut and packaged. If you add sauces, marinades and some seasoning blends you can add high sodium contents. I am a firm believer in knowing what you are adding to items that increase fat, sodium and cholesterol contents.

I love to cook my pork bare bones, give me garlic, pepper and a little salt. That just brings out the flavor of pork and that is all I need. Watching the internal temperature of the pork is the most important thing in the world. If it gets over done is it dry with no flavor. Cook it to 145 degrees internal temp, pull off the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and its always juicy and tender.

So there is my key to wanting to keep running. It has made me more conscious of my health and how I want to improve my eating habits. Of course that includes cooking and eating more PORK!

I will post next week to let you know how I did in my first 5K.🙂

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