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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.

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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. 🙂

Goals help us stay focused and provide motivation. Even a simple goal like cleaning off our desk can keep our mind on the project and create satisfaction when completed.

This summer I’ve been exercising aimlessly. After I ran the 5K in Duluth in June I wanted to do an event towards the end of summer that would give me something to shoot for and stretch my talents. For example, last year I did the Iron Girl Duathlon.

All summer I watched various races come and go but could never get excited about any of them or find one that didn’t conflict with my schedule. In the back of my mind I saw the 10K race in Mankato as a possibility. Sure, it would challenge me since I haven’t run a 10K for almost 30 years, but it was later in the season than I preferred since the race is Oct. 21.

So I would keep finding excuses not to sign up and as summer came to a close I realized I was on the path to letting my exercise routine fade away like the summer daylight hours. I became increasing frustrated with myself knowing that if I let an opportunity like the Mankato 10K pass by I would be mad at myself for not trying. Then again, for whatever reasons the last few times I ran it was hard, and that was only 2 miles. How could I survive 6?

The answer was right next to me…Dale. He said he would run with me and knowing I had him at my side to help me through any rough spots gave me confidence that I could complete a 10K. So I signed us both up for the 10K and went out and ran 2 1/2 miles. It was the best run I had in a long time. Perhaps a sign that my decision was the right one.

Now I have a goal, a purpose for running and exercising even though the daylight hours are getting shorter and the days cooler. It feels good to have something to focus on. Funny thing is that my running is going better too. I suppose those 90° summer days did drag me down, but mentally I have more confidence in myself. I’ve been running 4 miles consistently and am looking to do 5. Once I do that I know I can do 6, especially with Dale running along with me.

What I enjoyed about the Iron Girl Duathlon last year was the challenge of doing something I’d never done before. It meant setting a goal and then working hard to achieve that goal. I’ve decided I can’t let the fear of failure overcome the opportunity to succeed.

Harvest has begun early this year. Perhaps that’s not such a surprise considering what type of year 2012 has been. From the unseasonably warm winter to the unfortunately dry summer, this has certainly been a year most people won’t forget.

Here in southern MN, most farmers have started harvesting corn and while it’s early on the calendar, the corn is mature. Moisture levels started high, in the mid to high 20’s, but a few good drying days and strong winds have brought those levels down. Early results say the yields are better than expected, but remember it’s still early. Perhaps the dry summer made us lower our expectations too.

I know that others around the country have not done as well. I work for an animal nutrition company and through my contacts across the U.S. I hear reports of very poor yields or rather almost nonexistent yields. In addition to the reduced quantity of corn, some areas need to be concerned about the quality of corn. Aflatoxin, which can be detrimental to animal performance, is often produced by molds that grow in drought stricken corn.  This creates a challenge for farmers because now they may not only be short of corn, but the corn they do have contains mycotoxins that can be harmful to their animals.

September is my favorite month of the year. The combination of warm days and cools nights create a wonderful atmosphere. The excitement of harvest and seeing the results of the growing season fills the air. Kids are back in school with a fresh new year ahead of them. It’s a great time to live on the farm.

I’ll admit this writer of the Pork Power blog has gone through a bit of writers block recently. It seems I would begin to start a subject, only to get part way through and decide it wasn’t really what I wanted to say.

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in number of events that involve promoting pork to people who don’t typically interact with pig farmers. From the Boston Marathon in April, to Grandma’s Marathon in June, to the Oink Outing in Edina a few weeks ago, I’ve had a chance to give them a healthy, tasty sample of pork and more importantly talk to them about raising pigs.

The marathon events were just plain fun. While I enjoyed interacting with people at the Farmers Market Oink Outing in Edina, I had a number of conversations that made me realize how much people just don’t trust pig farmers anymore… and that makes me sad.

It seems there was a time when farming was a noble profession. Farmers didn’t make much money, but they were growing food for people, which was good. It also meant those people were free to get other jobs and not have to be farmers. Somewhere along the way, a few bad apples have ruined it for the rest of us and now the common thing to do is call all farmers “corporate farmers” who practice “factory farming.”  Ouch, that hurts.

I had people in Edina tell me they won’t eat meat because of the way animals were housed. When I told them about our farm and how we take care of pigs, you could see them make the mental transition to “Okay, now I trust you, but I don’t trust the other people.” So how do I explain to them that the vast majority of pig farmers in MN and the U.S. can be trusted, even if you don’t have the chance to meet with them. I want them to know that with the guidance of our veterinarians and consultants, we can make the right decisions on the welfare of our animals and we don’t need someone else making that choice for us.

I’ve never taken the trust of someone else for granted. I’ve tried to teach my kids that trust is an important part of someone’s character; it’s a measure of someone’s worth. So how do I explain to my kids that a whole new segment of society thinks we’re “worthless” and can’t be trusted to take care of the very animals that provide our livelihood.

Just as important, how do I get people to trust pig farmers again?

Our big weekend in Duluth is just days away. Dale is ready to run the marathon, although with work projects his training hasn’t been as intense. Adam is running the 5K this year after having competed in the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon last year.

New to the Pork Power team is our daughter Beth, who will be in 7th grade. She’s planning on running cross country this fall, so as she works to get in her summer miles, the William R. Irving 5K provides a great opportunity. Dave and Suzie Olson along with their two daughters will also be running in Duluth. They are pork producers that live near us.

Having just spent last week in Des Moines at the World Pork Expo combined with other end of the year school activities has not allowed me much time to focus on this race. I sense that will change as we get closer to the actual day. Grandma’s Marathon is a great event and being part of the health expo as pork producers is a wonderful opportunity to talk about pork as a lean protein for athletes.

Beth asked if I would run with her during the race and of course I agreed to. But I have a feeling that once we get a mile or so into the race, her pace will quicken and I’ll be telling her to go ahead without me. It’s exciting to think of her starting her running career. I’m sure there will be many exciting races in store for her.

“I survived the 2012 Boston Marathon”. That’s the shirt that Dale wants someone to create so that he can buy it. 87° temperatures and running a marathon are two things that do not go well together. Yet Dale was able to stay upright, when unfortunately many didn’t, and run a very respectable 3:45 marathon.

Our weekend in Boston was memorable; not only for the heat but for the great opportunity we had to promote pork during the Health Expo. As I walked into the Event Center, I could smell the inviting scent of grilled pork. Even though the place was packed and I couldn’t find our booth, I knew the Pork Power team was there. We had lots of people ask why pork was at the Health Expo. When we tell them how well a lean protein like pork fits into an athlete’s diet, you could see their head nod in agreement.

Over and over we instructed people on the proper way to cook pork and how that really does make a difference in juiciness and taste. In the end, our goal was to create a positive impression, to provide a little education and to encourage people to continue to buy pork.

Having goals and committing to the hard work and discipline to achieve those goals applies to most everything we do in life, from promoting pork to running marathons. Sometimes things happen beyond our control but that doesn’t make the preparation or the effort needed to accomplish the task any less significant.

Simply having the courage to take on a daunting task reflects the true character of a person.

Congratulations Boston Marathon Finishers

Last Friday my daughter Beth and I visited the Worthington Middle School and shared our experiences as pig farmers with the 5th graders. The opportunity was made possible by the MN Pork Board through their sponsorship with Provider Pals.

Very few of the culturally diverse kids were familiar with pigs and the basic facts of how much they weigh when they are born (3.3 lbs), how big they are at market (280 lbs) and how many pigs a sow can have in a year (30). By the way, that last fact drew a big “wow” from the kids. They asked lots of questions and had a great time trying on the Tyvek coveralls and plastic boots.

They took turns coming to the smart board and circling on a picture of a pig where their favorite cuts of pork came from. You could see them start to make the connection – bacon, everyone’s favorite, comes from pigs and these people raise those pigs. They wanted to know how much pigs ate and how did we decide how much to feed the sows and oh by the way, why do you call them sows? Yes, we even go the delicate question of how can you eat the pigs you raise. As I explain to them how lucky I am because I have the opportunity to grow my own food, I also wanted them to understand that I know I raise pork for people like them and I want them to have safe and healthy pork too.

During one of our breaks a little boy who hasn’t been in the U.S. very long, politely came up and asked Beth if she wanted to play checkers. What a fitting summary to our day. We may live in different areas and look and speak differently, but in the end, we all have something in common.

Our goal was to leave a little nugget of information for those kids so that the next time someone talks about pigs and farming they remember what we said and make a positive connection. Yes, pig farmers are real people. They have kids and those kids like to play checkers, just like you.

Playing Chess at Provider Pals Day

For those of you that don’t know it, Dale is running the Boston Marathon on April 16th. The Boston Marathon is probably one of the most famous marathons. Even people that don’t run recognize the name. Dale has been training very hard, or perhaps I should say diligently over the last 5 months. He’s a man with a plan and he’s sticking to it. I hope that brings him success at the race.

The Pork Power Blog got its start about 3 years ago when the MN Pork Board decided to be a sponsor at Grandma’s Marathon. A group of us pork producers, who happen to be runners, decided to share our experiences, both on running and being pig farmers.

In April at Boston, the MN Pork Board will be exhibiting at the Health Expo. It will be a great opportunity to share the message of how pork is a lean and healthy protein that fits into an athlete’s diet.

It’s going to be a busy time in Boston. Not only do we have Dale running and the Health Expo, but I’m going to be running the 5K on the 15th and I just found out I was selected to be a volunteer at the Marathon. I’ll be helping with the clothing check at the starting line. It should be a great experience.

Watch out Boston. The MN Pork Producers and their “Pork Power” are on the move.

Okay, so I may be a little older than what most people think of for adoption but in this case the adoption means I’ve been chosen by the Worthington Middle School students through Provider Pals. This program is a cultural exchange between those in agriculture and inner-city students.

Provider Pals was started by Bruce Vincent, a logger from Montana as a way for urban and rural students to exchange information and gain a better understanding of their common ground and their differences. For more information on Provider Pals you can visit their website at http://www.providerpals.com

The MN Pork Board has sponsored 4 pork producers to be part of this program, of which I and my daughter Beth are fortunate enough to be able to participate. Over the next few months we’ll be exchanging information on ourselves and the activities that happen on our farm with these students. I am looking forward to the students’ questions and helping them learn more about life on a hog and grain farm. It will be important not just to show them what’s different, but what we have in co