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Last week I attended the National Pork Industry Forum in Phoenix. This is the annual meeting of both the NPPC and the National Pork Board. Dale and the kids joined me on the trip since both my parents and Dale’s mom and her husband are wintering (snowbirds) in the Phoenix area.
As you can see by the picture, we got the chance to hike around Superstition Mountain a bit. The kids loved the change of scenery with the desert and cactus. Of course, who wouldn’t love 70-80 degree weather too?
Most of my time was spent in meetings. I enjoy meeting people from around the country and am always impressed with the leadership and commitment these people have to the pork industry. The National Pork Board introduced its new slogan “Be Inspired”. While The Other White Meat has done the pork industry well, it was time for a change. The new slogan may take a while to catch on, but I like the possibilities.
Most everyone is concerned with grain prices and profitability. That doesn’t stop us being the most cost effective producer of high quality pork. The world wants our product and we’ve responded by exporting almost 1 out of 5 pigs produced.
Steve Meyer, from Paragon Economics made that statement at a pork industry meeting I recently attended. It’s a simple statement, yet very profound. We may call ourselves pork producers, pig farmers, growers, producers or even farm families, but in the end, we have one purpose, to produce food to feed people.
Every day Dale gets up and goes out to the barns to feed and take care of the pigs. There are sows to breed, young pigs that need to be checked and the occasional pig that may need extra care. There is feed to grind and animals to be fed. Some days there are gates to be fixed or other repairs that need to be done. The end goal is to send a pig to market that is healthy, efficient and a good source of lean protein for the consumer.
The pigs we raise could end up as a dry aged pork chop in a white table restaurant. The ham could be part of a school lunch meal, perhaps the best meal that some kid has for that day. Pork ribs could be part of a tailgate party before a big football game. The loin roast could be part of a hot delicious meal on a cold winter night.
The farmers I know are modest, perhaps too modest. They don’t want to call attention to what they do, so unfortunately some people don’t understand what it’s like to raise pigs today. It’s like many other jobs, rewarding, challenging, frustrating and gratifying. But to farmers, it’s more than a job, it’s a livelihood, a passion they have for raising livestock that one day feeds people.
Next time you see a farmer, any type of farmer, tell him or her thanks. They may be surprised, but they’ll appreciate your gratitude.
With the end of June and the first month of summer vacation just a few days away, I think of that old song that talked about the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” and I think crazy YES! Lazy, No way! June found us participating in the World Pork Expo, Grandma’s Marathon, Spat Camp, Hoops Academy, Fastbreak league, Swimming Lessons, Cross Country camp and our church festival. I think there was only one day that I looked at the calendar and said “hey, we don’t have anything scheduled for today.”
I would like to say that I always have the chance to prepare a healthy well balanced meal, but the truth is that sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is our answer to the food pyramid. It’s 10:00 pm as I plop down into the chair while the last kid finishes showering. I’m hoping to read a few pages of the book I’m really interested in. But in reality I only get one page read before I fall asleep. Unfortunately I think it’s the same page every night!
But you know what; I LOVE SUMMER! Despite the crazy hectic schedules, I love not having the pressure of getting everyone’s homework completed each night. I love the impromptu softball, soccer or badminton games that happen just because we feel like it. I love campfires and roasting marshmallows and looking into a night sky that’s filled with stars, realizing we are so luck to be out in the country where we can actually see the stars. I love going for a bike ride later in the evening when the sun has gone down and even though it’s still a bit humid, my bike cuts through the air as I race down the road.
But most of all, I like summer because I can be with my kids. During the school year, our schedules and activities revolve around school. In the fall, I’m always a bit sad to “give them back” to school again. I know that getting an education is important and I will always encourage them to do their best in school, but in the summer time, we have the opportunity to get a different type of education that is just as valuable.
So if you hear me talking about how busy our summer is, just smile along with me. Because deep down, I love summer and all the crazy, not so lazy things it brings us.