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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.

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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.

Those of you that have been following this blog know that we like to get our family involved in pork activities. It’s a way to both help them learn more about the industry and to give back to it. This last week was World Pork Expo and Beth and Adam, as usual spent time helping in the Hubbard Feeds booth. In the past their main goal was to find candy at the different exhibitors but now they recognize different companies and what they provide. They also found out that Mom and Dad know a lot of people.

This next week Brett will participate in the MN Agriculture Ambassador Institute. He’s participating as a member of the Pork Ambassadors. This seminar is designed to provide leadership and communication skills to kids who will be representing various aspects of production agriculture. They will also have an opportunity to see firsthand how different types of technology is used in agriculture. This will be a great opportunity for Brett to meet other kids, to learn more about agriculture and hopefully to build his confidence in speaking to others about the truths of agriculture. Since he’ll be attending the U of MN Twin Cities, I suspect he may have a few opportunities to share his farm background with others.

Adam will also participate in the Swine Industry tour later this month. This will give him an up close view of some other aspects of agriculture and since he’s thinking of a career in ag, hopefully will help him decide what he might like to do.

People talk about the future of agriculture and the need to get young people involved. Hats off to the MN Pork Board and other agriculture organizations for putting together these learning opportunities for kids interested in agriculture. Even though some of the kids may not end up with a career in ag, the things they learn will help them be good spokespeople for our industry.

 

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!

Goals help us stay focused and provide motivation. Even a simple goal like cleaning off our desk can keep our mind on the project and create satisfaction when completed.

This summer I’ve been exercising aimlessly. After I ran the 5K in Duluth in June I wanted to do an event towards the end of summer that would give me something to shoot for and stretch my talents. For example, last year I did the Iron Girl Duathlon.

All summer I watched various races come and go but could never get excited about any of them or find one that didn’t conflict with my schedule. In the back of my mind I saw the 10K race in Mankato as a possibility. Sure, it would challenge me since I haven’t run a 10K for almost 30 years, but it was later in the season than I preferred since the race is Oct. 21.

So I would keep finding excuses not to sign up and as summer came to a close I realized I was on the path to letting my exercise routine fade away like the summer daylight hours. I became increasing frustrated with myself knowing that if I let an opportunity like the Mankato 10K pass by I would be mad at myself for not trying. Then again, for whatever reasons the last few times I ran it was hard, and that was only 2 miles. How could I survive 6?

The answer was right next to me…Dale. He said he would run with me and knowing I had him at my side to help me through any rough spots gave me confidence that I could complete a 10K. So I signed us both up for the 10K and went out and ran 2 1/2 miles. It was the best run I had in a long time. Perhaps a sign that my decision was the right one.

Now I have a goal, a purpose for running and exercising even though the daylight hours are getting shorter and the days cooler. It feels good to have something to focus on. Funny thing is that my running is going better too. I suppose those 90° summer days did drag me down, but mentally I have more confidence in myself. I’ve been running 4 miles consistently and am looking to do 5. Once I do that I know I can do 6, especially with Dale running along with me.

What I enjoyed about the Iron Girl Duathlon last year was the challenge of doing something I’d never done before. It meant setting a goal and then working hard to achieve that goal. I’ve decided I can’t let the fear of failure overcome the opportunity to succeed.

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.

For those of you that don’t know it, Dale is running the Boston Marathon on April 16th. The Boston Marathon is probably one of the most famous marathons. Even people that don’t run recognize the name. Dale has been training very hard, or perhaps I should say diligently over the last 5 months. He’s a man with a plan and he’s sticking to it. I hope that brings him success at the race.

The Pork Power Blog got its start about 3 years ago when the MN Pork Board decided to be a sponsor at Grandma’s Marathon. A group of us pork producers, who happen to be runners, decided to share our experiences, both on running and being pig farmers.

In April at Boston, the MN Pork Board will be exhibiting at the Health Expo. It will be a great opportunity to share the message of how pork is a lean and healthy protein that fits into an athlete’s diet.

It’s going to be a busy time in Boston. Not only do we have Dale running and the Health Expo, but I’m going to be running the 5K on the 15th and I just found out I was selected to be a volunteer at the Marathon. I’ll be helping with the clothing check at the starting line. It should be a great experience.

Watch out Boston. The MN Pork Producers and their “Pork Power” are on the move.

This Sunday I will compete in the Iron Girl Duathlon which will be held at Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington MN. The race starts with a 2 mile run, followed by a 22 mile bike ride then finishes with another 2 mile run.

I signed up for this race on June 20, after watching the boys run the Gary Bjorkland ½ Marathon in Duluth. Their determination and desire to take on a challenge inspired me to do the same. I’ve spent the summer running and biking, putting on more miles
than I ever have in the past. I realize I’m not doing as many as some other may be, but it’s still an increase for me. Mentally it has been a great experience to take on challenges, set goals and accomplish them.

I have to admit I’m starting to get nervous, or perhaps excited would be a better word. After focusing on this race all summer, it’s only a few short days away. From all I hear, it’s a great event. Since I haven’t done this before, I don’t have any specific times in mind. My only goal is to compete as well as I can and to have fun. My kids call me Iron Mom and I can’t wait to be one after the race on Sunday.

One of my goals this summer was to run a longer distance race, somewhere between 5-6 miles. I was able to accomplish that goal today with Dale’s help at the Freedom Run 8K in St. Peter. Physically I thought I could probably run that far, but mentally I knew I’d do better and enjoy it more if someone ran with me. Dale, coming off Grandma’s Marathon two weeks ago agreed to be my running partner and pacer.

 The whole family loaded in the van at 6:00 am this morning, since Beth was running the 1 mile kids race and I needed the boys to stay with her while we ran. It was a beautiful morning and as we gathered at the starting line, I wasn’t too nervous but I told Dale my goal was not to walk at all.

We started off at a nice pace and as we ran I already was starting to sweat. Having experienced stinging sweat in my eyes on some of my training runs, I borrowed Beth’s headband that she got at Grandma’s Marathon which really worked to absorb the sweat.

We ran at a consistent pace, slowing slightly for the hills. Dale and I didn’t talk much but I appreciated his words of encouragement and the steady sound of his stride next to mine. As we passed mile marker 3 going up a slight hill, I knew things were going to be okay. As we came upon mile 4, I was ready to pick up the pace a bit, which was the right time since we were starting to go downhill.

As we ran down the hill Dale encouraged me to open up my stride and then as we neared the end, he told me to go after a lady ahead wearing a hat. Just as I surged, she did too, but I passed her right before the finish line and finished with a time of 46 minutes, 50 seconds. Not a course record or even a placing for my age, but still a nice time.

 The race was important to me mentally and physically, to give me the confidence to know I can run those distances. I really appreciated Dale’s support and I know it was hard for him not to just break out and run faster.

 Beth finished the morning with a nice one mile run, finishing second overall and the first girl.

 Setting goals is important; but achieving those goals gives us confidence to do even greater things.

 

Running motivation from a poster

 
“Is it raining?”, Brandon asked me at 4:30am, the morning of my 1/2 marathon race in Duluth.
 
“It doesn’t matter”, was my response.  After training for months, I wasn’t worried about the weather or my stiff knee or the wind.  None of that mattered.  I just wanted to soak in the feeling of the day, and virtually nothing could ruin that feeling.
 
I love the feel of race day.  Joy and pain and energy

Max didn't run fast enough

and exhaustion and smiling and crying and accomplishment.  It’s a high that is hard to describe.  The race went well, but the weekend was about so much more than the race itself.  The weekend was about bringing the four corners of my life into the center.  I call these four corners the “four F’s”. 
 
The four F’s in my life include family, faith, fitness, and farming.  Which F is taking priority depends on the day or hour, but often only one is in the center.  What is so great about Grandma’s Marathon weekend is that the priorities in my life come together and intertwine, and it is very seldom that this opportunity arises.   It’s a powerful feeling… pork power.