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Most pigs are green. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen white, black, red and even blue-butt pigs, but green pigs?? No such thing. Okay, so when I say green I’m not referring to the color, but the sustainability of pork production and how well it fits with the crops we grow.

Right now we’re busy planting corn and beans. Much of the reason we’ll have a good yield is because of the fertility of the soil. The hog manure we apply to the soil has a major impact on fertility. We test the manure for nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. We also test our soil for those same nutrients. Where the soil is low in nutrients, we apply more manure to increase the fertility and the yield. This allows us to get the right balance of nutrients. In the past without testing there was a greater chance of over applying or under applying the manure, which is wasteful.

A popular subject is carbon footprint. Whether you are a consumer, producer or manufacturer, reducing your carbon footprint is important. Through the Pork Checkoff producers funded research efforts that measured and identified the overall carbon footprint involved with pork production. I’m happy to say the production system we use, with deep pits has the lowest GHG emissions. Why is that? Our facilities help our pigs grow more efficiently, which means they use less feed. The deep pits and manure application systems we have allow us to capture the most nutrients for the crops and reduce our need for commercial fertilizer. Today’s as farmers we produce 50% more pork with the same GHG emissions. That’s being responsible.

Most people I talk to don’t realize what a productive and efficient cycle pigs and crops create. While you may not actually see green pigs on our farm, you can feel good knowing every day we’re trying to do the best we can to be responsible to our neighbors and our environment.

Go Green!

Grandmas weekend was a blast, and the race wasn’t too bad, either.

As I reflect on what transpired, the moments that stick out had to do with people. Things started for me Thursday afternoon. After arriving at the Radisson, I went out for a run to loosen up. At the street corner I met a skinny guy in running gear that was looking for a good route to run. I volunteered to help him, even after admitting that I hadn’t been down near Canal Park for many years.

I quickly sized this guy up as being much faster than myself, but we did fall into a common pace and conversation easily. This gentleman was from Ethiopa by way of New York, and had been invited to run the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. He was a little cagy about his projected finishing time, but the end result is that he finished 3rd in the race.

After working at the Expo for a couple hours, and receiving very positive feedback from those sampling pork, I grabbed my race packet and wandered around. I was greeted by a guy seated behind a table “You must be Brett and Adam’s dad.” (We were wearing the same Pork Power shirts). This man was Dane Rauschenberg, who had run 52 marathons in 52 weeks during 2006. Quite an accomplishment, and also an inspiration to many runners.

On Friday the boys and I spent time talking to Vali Tomeschu, the coach of the Romanian women that won gold at the Beijing Olympics marathon. He had some coaching tips for the boys, and wanted to hear how they finished at the William A. Irvin 5K that night.

Friday afternoon we watched Beth run her Whipper Snapper race, along with Callie and Shayna (Joe and Teresa’s daughters). Their races were short and fast, and the girls looked strong running. It is a thrill to see them finish so well.

I stayed at the Expo Friday afternoon, and reached the people-meeting zenith for me. Dick Beardsley was signing his book, and I talked to him for about 15 minutes. Various topics were farming and running, UM-Waseca, where Lori also went to college, and our promotion of pork at Grandma’s. Later, I made it to the presentations, catching the tail end of Kara Goucher’s talk, then Dick’s talk. During the question and answer period for Kara, a lady 15 feet from me said that she had something to give Kara that has been around for 25 years. She was talking about a laurel wreath (given to winners of the Boston Marathon), and that she was Lisa Weidenbach, the last American woman to win at Boston. Kara politely declined, since she wanted to earn hers.

The 5K race went about as I expected, with 1500+ runners causing a traffic jam and a slow start. The 5 Stevermers, Brett, Adam, Lori, Joe and Jenna, foundtheir stride and ran good races. Once again, it was so exciting to see family members working hard and having success.

I will save a blow by blow review of Grandma’s for the next time. My bus ride to the start went quickly because the person seated next to me was a good listener and experienced marathoner. A resident of Boston, he had helped a friend re-qualify at the 2010 Boston, so had traveled to Duluth to qualify. He is a physical therapist, and gave a few pointers on the miniscus tear that I am dealing with. I enjoyed running past the Bacon Section and proudly pointed out my Pork Power shirt. I also met up with some runners from Rochester that I had met 3 weeks ago at the Med City half.

The most important people were the ones I spent the rest of Saturday with: my family and friends that were in Duluth. Thank you for your support, and thanks to the MN Pork Board for spurring me on to run my 7th marathon, a Boston qualifier.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

We’re only two days before Grandma’s Marathon and our races and everyone is getting excited. Part of the reason is that we’re looking forward to some vacation time. The other reason of course is that the race we’ve been training for is finally here and while we’re trying not to focus on how well we run, we can’t help but feel some pressure to do well.

There have been so many people wishing us good luck and cheering for us, that it’s hard not to want to run you absolute best, so you feel you haven’t let them down. Yet our success will go beyond what type of times we run. To me, our success can be defined by 3 things. First, by each one of us runners setting a goal and having the determination and resilience to keep working to reach that goal. If you’ve read our blogs you know that especially in the last few weeks we’ve had small injuries and activities that have taken away from our training. But each one of us will line up at the start and will give it our best shot.

Second, as pork producers, we’ve shared our families and farms with you and hopefully helped you learn a little more about us. We care about nutrition and eating well, that’s why we chose a lean protein like pork for our diets. We care about our animals and our environment, it’s why we operate our farms is a safe, responsible manner. But most importantly, we care about our family and friends.

Finally, I think our pork power team is a success because we took on a new challenge. Everyone involved, from the staff at the MN Pork Board office, to the volunteers and the runners decided to do something different, to promote pork to a new segment, the athlete. Pork Power isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s the power of a nutrition protein like pork and it’s the power of a team of people working together towards a common goal.

Success – Ralph Waldo Emerson

          To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of the intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.

I followed a great training plan to get ready for Grandma’s Marathon. It had tune-up races that would help determine how fast you should train over the next 4 weeks, and the workouts definitely made me a faster runner than I thought I would be. The idea that a marathon runner should train at low intensity, and just be able to cover the miles, is fine for those that just want to finish the 26.2 mile distance. I knew I had to train harder and better than that because I was representing the pork industry.

I was supposed to do a half marathon race 4 weeks out, then have a couple hard weeks of training before I started to taper and heal the legs. Running Med City 3 weeks out was what I did instead, and I just traded a couple weeks on the calendar. Coach Vies had said that it takes about a day to recover from each mile of racing, and looking at my training log, I would have to say that was about right on. The first week was all about getting the legs to fresh enough to run easy, so 50 miles became 35. The next Tuesday saw me in the dentist’s chair for a root canal. Even though you couldn’t get much farther from my legs, that seemed to be a slight setback, also.

However, even with a couple struggles, a nice hard bike ride on Sunday got me going again. Lori & I went out, averaging over 17 mph. I know I was pushing the pace, but everything felt easy. I added some miles on my own, and probably finished at 16+ mph over 15 miles, the last half into a breeze. 2 more days of running really helped tune things up, and now I just have a 4 miler in Duluth before the 26.2 on Saturday. I am going to go into this race with confidence that the training I have put in will allow me to race Grandma’s, not just make it to the finish line.

Last night we attended the track team awards ceremony, where the Vies commented on each runner’s contribution to the team’s success. Adam had competed mostly at the junior high level, but his distance events were very good, breaking 5:50 in the 1600. Brett was the solid #2 3200 guy, with a SB of 11:29, and encouraged by Vies to work harder to uncover the rest of his potential. Then, a senior stepped forward and presented a bag of goodies that gets passed to a freshman trackster. This is a tradition that helps carry forward the leadership and responsibilities form older kids to the next group coming up, and was given to Brett  Today will be spent mixing feed and doing a couple clean up jobs around the farm before we attend the picnic at Schafer’s. While I will have competent, experienced people doing chores while I am gone, I want to make things as easy as possible for them.

– 26.2 –

“I’m wasted on cross-country! We Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances.” -Gimli, Lord of the Rings movie series

  My exercise routine this week was anything but routine due to my attending the World Pork Expo. For those of you not familiar with this event, it’s a combination of a trade show, educational seminars and grilling competition. Throw in the Junior National Show with about 600 exhibitors showing 1500 pigs and Des Moines Iowa June 9-11 was the place to be for anything to do with pigs.

 My week started off by leaving for Des Moines on Monday to set up the Hubbard Feeds booth. Tuesday we had a swine training meeting for our salespeople. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was the tradeshow, which I worked most of the time. Working the tradeshow involves a lot of time standing, which is tiring. Our booth was really busy so visiting with people all day can also be tiring, although it’s rewarding.

 For me, it’s challenging to fit in some time to work out. We start early in the morning. Typically a group of us go out for dinner in the evening. Later in the evening it’s a great opportunity to visit with people from around the country to see how business is going for them. Not much opportunity to fit in a run.

 I was lucky to fit in a short run on the treadmill Thursday evening as the kids swam in the hotel pool. It felt good to stretch my muscles and get my heart rate going. What I’m really looking forward to is getting home and getting out on my bike. The weather forecast for the weekend is for rain off and on, so I really hope I get the chance to get out.

 The World Pork Expo is a great deal of work for me, but I also find it exciting. I enjoy meeting with people from all over the US and the world and from all types of farms, from small to large. I also enjoy seeing what’s new in the industry. Typically we’re highlighting something new in our booth, so I’m eager to see the crowd’s reaction. The workout I do get involves much standing and walking around the fairgrounds, and while I miss running and biking, I enjoy seeing and visiting with my friends in the pork industry.

Maddie & Max enjoying a run/ride

My kids will officially be done with school tomorrow at noon, but there doesn’t seem to be a slow down in sight.  We aren’t the only family with a packed summer, are we?

The three oldest (Kendrah, Maddie, and Max) have been working hard to train and groom their three heifers.  We have a regional cattle show that the Minnesota Junior Gelbvieh Association is hosting this coming weekend.  It should be a lot of fun, but many hours spent planning and executing the plan.  I’m going to encourage Maddie to get a treadmill run in at some point, but we’ll see how that goes.

This past weekend Maddie and I ran our last official “long run” before Grandma’s.  As we were  about to head out the door, my son Max asked if he could bike with us.  It was perfect.  Max packed our water bottles and gels into a backpack and off we went.  We normally have to plan our water breaks, but with Max biking by our side, we could have water whenever the need arose.  What a treat 🙂  He was very patient with our pace.  He took some breaks to look for fish in the creek and got within 20 yards of a doe.  He’s a kid that loves being out in nature.

With our long training runs behind us, it’s now time to focus on some other fun upcoming events.  We will be hosting a tour for the National Pork Checkoff Food Service Advisory Committee at our farm in June.  It’s always an honor to share our farm with people involved in the industry.  At the end of June we will also host our annual “Pignic”.  We enjoy inviting neighbors and those we do business with to gather and socialize at our home.  It’s one way for us to say “thank you” to those that support our choice to farm.

Don’t look for me lounging in a hammock this summer, I’ve got life’s race to run.