You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘pig farming’ tag.

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.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.

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

 

Bin Pad

The remodeling project of turning an old finisher into a nursery barn has finally been completed. Dale worked long hours and late nights that last week to finish installing bulk bins, feeding equipment and other necessary items. Then it was time to pick up the tools and power wash the barn to make it ready for the pigs. The early reports were favorable as pigs were comfortably spread out; not too hot and not too cold.

This picture shows the cement pad that the bulk bins sit on with the initials of Beth and Dale written into it. All farm projects that involve cement will have someone’s initials and date scratched into them. It’s a way to record history. Machine sheds, barns and any other significant structures are “branded”. This allows farmers to casually walk around their yard reminiscing about each project and the year it was completed.

It’s funny how a date etched in cement can bring back a flood of memories. I’m sure Dale and Beth will experience the same thing every time they look at this piece of cement.