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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. 🙂

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Today I had the honor to be part of a group of pork producers that presented 5000 pounds of ground pork to the Second Harvest Heartland organization. Through our Oink Outing tours and events this past summer, MN pork producers interacted with consumers and for every question they asked us about pork production, we donated a pound of pork. As you can see, we had a lot of questions.

If you looked up the word logistics in the dictionary, it would say “See Second Harvest Heartland”. These people know how to get food from companies and producers that have excess to those organizations and people that don’t have enough. They took in 79 million pounds of food last year. Unfortunately the number of people needing supplemental food continues to increase.

The warehouse at Second Harvest Heartland is huge and has pallets of food stacked three high. The walk in refrigerator and cooler is the size of many farm shop buildings. They have 17 trucks that pick up and deliver food around MN. I think you get the picture. Second Harvest Heartland is helping people in a big way.

Our donation of pork was much appreciated since sources of protein aren’t as plentiful for the food shelves as say, bread or cereal.

As my family sat down to a meal of ground pork tonight, (ironic isn’t it) I’m humbled by the fact that we didn’t even give one moment of thought on how much food we had or if there would be enough. Food insecurity is not in our vocabulary. Even my always hungry teenage boys can find something to eat in the cupboard. Unfortunately that’s not true for many families.

Hats off to the Second Harvest Heartland people and the wonderful work they do in relieving hunger.

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?

Yesterday our family spent the afternoon in Blaine at the USA Cup Soccer tournament visiting with parents and kids and talking to them about being pig farmers. It was a busy afternoon with lots of questions, which is a good thing since every question they asked us meant 1 pound of ground pork was donated to Second Harvest Heartland.

Most questions were pretty basic like how many babies does a sow have? (on average 10-12). How heavy are pigs when they are marketed? (275 lbs) and how old? (5 1/2 to 6 months). Many kids want to know why pigs roll in the mud. Easy, they don’t sweat so they need something like mud ,water or air blowing over them to help them stay cool. The soccer players really understood that one.

The golden moment was when you were able to strike up a really meaninful conversation with an adult and give them a few bits of information to help them understand what we do and more importantly, why we do it. Just over half of the population in MN doesn’t know a farmer and in the absence of that first hand knowledge, many people resort to misconceptions or old wives tales as truth.

It’s hard not to feel outnumbered, that no matter how much we try, we’ll never stay ahead of the “bad press” that’s out there. Yet, for a few hours yesterday, we were able to talk about being a pig farmer and help some city people get to know a farmer.

All Gating is Out

There is construction happening at Trails End Farm also, but ours is different from Schafers’. They are building new barns, while we are renovating an old barn for a new use. Currently our nursery pigs, those between 13 and 45 pounds, go to our neighbor’s site and then come back to our farm to be finished out. They are making some changes and so we are fixing up an old gestation barn (which previously had been a finishing barn) to become a nursery barn for our young pigs.

The first changes involved taking out all the gating, which you can see in this picture leaves an empty building. The next task is to change the ventilation so that air will be pulled through the attic and into the barn. This means the air will be warmer for the little pigs. It also means we have to change the way air comes into the barn and goes down unto the pig pens.

The attic of the barn

 All this can be quite technical and requires planning, calculating and constructing but proper airflow is important for the pigs’ health and to get the best growth.

 Dale and the kids have been busy working. On the warm days it gets hot in the attic, so they need to be careful, drink plenty of fluids and take breaks when needed. So far all has gone well – no snapping turtles yet!

 Stay tuned and we’ll keep you up to date on the progress.

Exactly where does your food come from?  Brandon and I had the opportunity to answer that exact question yesterday during an “Oink Outing”.  The MN Pork Producers connected us with 4 moms from the Cities who answer the daunting question of “What’s for supper?” every day.  We also had the opportunity to visit with Chef Paul Lynch of Fire Lake Grill House.  Chef Paul shared with the moms and us how easy it is to prepare pork, did a cooking demonstration for us, and finally served us a delicious meal.

Following our meal at Chef Paul’s restaurant we drove to our farm for a tour.  The four women who were unfamiliar with farming had excellent questions ranging from, “What do the pigs eat?” to “What have the high corn and soybean prices done to our farm’s profitability?” and everything in between. 

Society has access to so much information that it is sometimes hard to sort out fact from fiction.  That is why we really appreciate the opportunity to show people what exactly it is we do, and more importantly, why we do things the way we do them.  It is not only in our pigs’ best interest to be comfortable and healthy, but in our best interest to raise production animals in a comfortable and healthy way.

Your food doesn’t come from a grocery store or a restaurant.  Your food comes from a farm.  Happy Eating!