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For those of us that wear multiple hats, which are most of us, introducing yourself at a meeting can be a bit of an exercise. Recently I attended an agribusiness meeting and all the attendees introduced themselves. As we went around the room, I debated list myself as a farmer first, or as an employee of Hubbard Feeds? As the microphone finally made it to me, I went with farmer first, then Hubbard employee, although I ended up stumbling through my introduction and wanting to have a “do-over.”

The whole experience did get me to think about how we view ourselves, especially those of us that have jobs off the farm. I know it depends on the situation, but really how do you view yourself? Who are you?

At the end of the day (and the beginning), I am a farmer. It’s the lifestyle I grew up with and it’s the way I live now. Being a farmer influences my decision making and my values. I have a soft spot in my heart for animals and want to give them the best care possible. I also know that these animals are a source of income for us and a source of food for others. As a farmer I tend to be frugal, practical and sometimes a little skeptical although some might call it guarded. As farmers, we’re in tune with the rhythm of life, the seasons and how nature controls so much of what we do. We deal with life and death and both can affect us dramatically.

Farming may not be glamorous and high profile but it is important as we’ve seen by the increasing interest in knowing where your food comes. Farmers come in all shapes and styles and use a variety of methods to produce food. While there may be differences, there are also similarities. Farmers want to grow crops, raise animals and sell their products so that others can eat. Farmers want to farm. Perhaps more than any other occupation, it gets in your blood and becomes not just your job, but your lifestyle. Yep, I am a farmer.

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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.

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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.

Time really flies! Here I thought I would be right on top of things and posting here on the blog weekly with my training progress…well that didn’t quite work out at all the way I wanted it to.

I have been training though, got a little behind schedule, but have started my 4th week of training. The intervals for today (and 2 more times this week) include 5 minutes of running – twice! I have to admit, I did not make the entire 5 minutes the first interval this morning but pushed myself on the second 5 minute run and did it. I think if anyone would have seen me they would have thought I had lost my mind. I cannot explain how good it felt to be able to push my way through to the end of 5 minutes.

I know, I know for some 5 minutes isn’t long at all but for me that is a milestone. I am really enjoying the training and getting outside to do this. I guess that is the thing I want to stress, I never thought I would be able to run for 5 minutes….and I did it!!

I have been trying to watch what I am eating as well. I have found over the years that carbs and I have a love/hate relationship so I have not cut them out entirely but I am trying to eat more vegetables and fruit plus protein. I love my protein. (PORK of course!)

So to wrap things, I have made it to 4 weeks of training for the 5K in June. I will just keep pushing and when I look ahead – by the time the program I am following is done, I will be running for 25 minutes straight….that just seems like a long way off!

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.

Lori has been doing some heavy lifting on this blog for a while, so I thought I would step in.

At this time last year, I was feeling pretty good about my running accomplishments. I had completed a big year for mileage (1500.5) and had a Boston qualifying run at Grandma’s, which was the first running event sponsored by the Minnesota Pork Board.

Fast forward to closing out 2011. I raced a half marathon in St Paul with a good enough time to get a nomination for MN Runner of the Year (I happened to Google my name). I raced Grandma’s 25 minutes faster than 2010, and was within 1:30 of my lifetime PR for 26.2 miles. I must have reached my running goals on that race, because it was tough to get inspired to train hard the rest of the summer.

Qualifying for Boston again was a true highlight, and I was able to register for the race on the first day. I also had lined up our flights and hotel rooms early, so we won’t scramble trying to get those nailed down. The only thing left to do was train.

Looking for a different challenge, I signed up for the Master Run Coach program, which follows training principles set down by Arthur Lydiard. Without going into details, a runner needs to have a large aerobic training base to add speed to as he gets closer to the race. I am finishing my base training this week, putting in about 70 miles. Wow.

One last thing. I ran 1785 miles in 2011, nearly 20% more. Most of that occurred in the months of November and December, when Boston training kicked in, and snow and ice were not problems like 2010.

I want to begin this post with a huge thank you to all the pork producers in Minnesota. Your financial support and willingness to sponsor Grandma’s Marathon is phenomenal.

Our weekend started with a couple promotional shifts during the Expo. Once again, handing out samples of loin roast and having the chance to interact with runners and their families about the nutrition of pork and the recent change in recommended cooking temperature was a great experience. Thursday night gets a little slow in the DECC Arena during the last hour, so I spent a lot of time interacting with various vendors of running and a couple of Olympians that were there. (a shout-out to Lorraine Moller.)

I saw Beth running the 1/4 mile Whipper Snapper race, and her late charge to a 4th place age group finish was cool. I headed back in to listen to Frank Shorter finish his talk, then got inspired again by Dick Beardsley. My take home message from him this year was to give it 100% and not be disappointed with the results if you do. Lori ran a fantastic 5K, shaving a couple minutes from last year.

The boys and I got up at 4:00 to get dressed and sample some of the light breakfast that the Radisson offered. They went off to the Garry Bjorklund start with Theresa S, Monica, & Theresa K, all great mothers for them. Later I learned that they finished the race in 1:40:05 fashion, having run and experienced it together. They finished 30th and 31st in their age group.

It was raining on the bus ride the Two Harbors, but quit as I got off the bus. I met up with Eric FitzSimmons, another Pork Power runner, and also Ben Linder, a med school student from Easton. We chatted and got off to a nice smooth start.

Weather in the 40’s, cloudy, and a nice tail wind are a nice combination for distance running. After a couple miles, I decided to push a little harder and see what would happen. I rolled through 13.1 miles in 1:31, and even though I felt a little tired, decided to do system checks every 2 miles, instead of walking like I had done last year. About the only issues I had were energy (just enough with a combination of ShotBloks and orange slices) and slight cramping in my right hamstring (I just didn’t press as much the last 5 miles). My finish time was 3:04:29 (chip), which is 1:00/mile faster than last year’s effort. It is good enough to allow me to register for the Boston Marathon on the first Monday, so I will get for 2012. Overall I placed 304th, 240th of males and 24th in my age group. Further details, and even finish line footage, are available here .

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. -Steve Prefontaine

 What do you do when you’re in the basement cleaning and you hear the voices of extra teenagers and wonder how you’re going to feed them? You call on pork, the versatile meat.

Brett and four of his classmates were working on an extra credit project for history. He told me they might come to our house to do some videotaping. I believe my last words to him were, “Let me know if you’re coming so I can be ready.” Well, Friday evening they showed up, which of course I’m glad they are at our house doing their homework, but then I’m also a little stressed because I realize I hadn’t picked up anything for supper and the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away.

I first considered the two thin crusted pizzas in my freezer, but knew they wouldn’t go far and quite frankly, they seemed kind of cheap. After all, I had to make a good impression on Brett’s friends. I don’t want to get a reputation as the “Mom who can’t cook”.

I collected my thoughts and turned to one of my favorite go to meats, pulled pork. I had 5 buns in the freezer, which combined with the soft shelled tortillas, offered a choice of either pulled pork sandwiches or carnitas. Add some sliced fruit and carrot sticks and the meal is complete.

I called the kids in for supper and they seemed surprised there was food, but that didn’t stop them from eating just about everything. I felt good about giving them a solid meal, especially since 3 of the 5 had track practice earlier in the day.

I make it a point to have our butcher prepare pulled pork for us. We freeze it in one pound packages which are about the right size as a meal for our family. As you can see it’s a quick and easy and really hits the spot, especially for hungry teenagers. It seems though they did leave room for the Oreo eating contest, but that’s another story.

Training for the 35th Grandma’s Marathon has been going well for me. This is the first time in 33 years that I have trained through the winter following a marathon season. In the past, it was busy-ness that was my excuse as the training miles disappeared during harvest.
This winter went well for me. I had tapered off in November and December, running about 10-15 miles/week. I resumed marathon training miles the last week in December, a week ahead of schedule.
Having kept a decent log of my miles and times last year, I am able to compare and contrast. So far in 2011, I am running a few more miles, but more importantly, my workout times are usually running about 30 seconds/mile faster than last year. So with this in mind, I was looking for a challenge.
I got that challenge with Team Ortho’s Get Lucky Triple 7k (half marathon). This race was held on Shepard Road in St Paul just above the Mississippi River last Saturday. A chilly day, it was 27 degrees at the start, with a slight head wind. My goal was to not get psyched out by the pace I was running, but to run hard and see what I could do.
This was an out and back race, and I was within a mile of the leader at the turn around. Even more impressive, he had about a 2 minute gap on the rest of the field, and there were less than 20 ahead of me. While it was mostly uphill on the way back, I just kept chugging away. I finished with a PR 1:25:56 time, about a 6:34 mile pace, that was good enough for 15th overall, 3rd masters and 1st in my age group. Even more satisfying was looking at my mile split times and seeing the consistency in times, only 16 seconds spread over the race (except first and last miles).
5 days later, I feel mostly recovered. I will try a tempo run tomorrow, and should be back on the training schedule, now that I have used that extra week I had started with. Keep running!

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

 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.

The return to Minnesota brought cooler temperatures and snow but it was still nice to have a break, even for only a few days.