There is a youth movement taking place across America. High school students are walking out of class, standing up for stricter gun laws in the shadow of the all-too-often tragic events in schools. Most of these youths can’t even vote yet, but that is not stopping them from storming state capitols, and even taking on D.C.
On a far less serious note, the U.S. swine industry is seeing a youth movement of its own.
This time of year marks the end of when most state pork associations have their annual meetings, and it has been good to see the young people mingling with the veterans of the industry.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the industry’s future at the various state meetings that I attended, and was fortunate enough to be at the National Pork Forum when the new class of the Pig Farmers of Tomorrow was introduced.
The individuals in this second class — Emma Lasco, Adam Krause and Christine Snowden — are all shining examples of the bright future for the swine industry. They also represent the diversity of the industry.
All three share a passion for the industry, but they each vary on how they came to that passion.
Krause is a fourth-generation farmer from South Dakota who was fortunate to have the opportunity to come back to the farm after completing college at the South Dakota State University.
Lasco and Snowden have grown into the swine industry, even though neither comes from a farm background. Lasco, originally from a town in northeast Illinois, saw her passion and interest in the porcine world grow when she got to Iowa State University after working in sow barns and finishing barns. She is now a territory manager for Smithfield Foods Midwest Production in Roland, Iowa.
Snowden used family connections to gain access to the hog showring, and her transformation into the swine world for a career was further molded once she attended the Ohio State University. She is now assistant farrowing manager for AMVC in Audubon, Iowa.
As Pig Farmers of Tomorrow, Snowden, Lasco and Krause will each speak at Pork Checkoff events and provide content on #RealPigFarming, which is the pork industry’s social media program. Through these avenues, they aim to spread the word about the pork industry enticing their contemporaries to seek a similar path and opening barn doors to consumers.
As Snowden says she wants to share “why being in the swine industry is a great career to have.” Lasco is seeking to use various social media avenues to “to give them (consumers) a day in our boots. … I grew up with people who didn’t have the knowledge or access to knowledge on agriculture, and I want to give them that. … I want to give people a day in our lives.”
The National Pork Producers Council and the CME Group also are looking to the future by annually awarding undergraduate students in a two- or four-year college who intend to pursue a career in the swine industry. This year’s recipients of the Lois Britt Memorial Pork Industry Scholarship are:
• Jacob Sterle, Iowa State University
• Erin Bryan, University of Illinois
• Tim Grote, University of Illinois
• Reid Hansen, South Dakota State University
• Madeline Herring, Iowa State University
• Macy Marek, Iowa State University
• John Eilertson, Casper College
• Ben Wikner, Iowa State University
• Jaclynn Knutson, South Dakota State University
• Gabe Greiner, Kirkwood Community College
Britt scholarship winners were also introduced at the National Pork Forum. The scholarship program was introduced in 1990 by CME Group and NPPC to celebrate the 25th anniversary of CME hog futures. The scholarship was renamed in 2006 to honor the passing of NPPC board member Lois Britt, a lifetime supporter of agriculture. Britt spent 34 years with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, finishing out her career for 15 years with Smithfield Hog Production in public and government relations. She was inducted into the NPPC Pork Industry Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Pork Council Hall of Fame and awarded the North Carolina 4-H Lifetime Achievement Award.
Knowing not everyone will be raising pigs, someone will have to provide the necessary care when herds ail. Merck Animal Health and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Foundation realize this and announced the 10 recipients of the AASVF/Merck Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarships during the recent annual meeting of the AASV.
To be eligible, applicants must be second- or third-year students enrolled in American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited or recognized colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean Islands.
This year’s recipients, each receiving $5,000, are:
• Jacob Baker, Iowa State University
• Kimberlee Baker, Iowa State University
• Rachel Bardot, University of Missouri
• Stephanie Betbeze, Lincoln Memorial University
• Megan Bloemer, University of Illinois
• Kayla Henness, University of Illinois
• Evan Koep, Iowa State University
• Marjorie Schleper, University of Minnesota
• Joel Steckelberg, Iowa State University
• Jonathan Tubbs, Auburn University
All too often the blanket reason for young people not getting involved in agriculture is the lack of opportunity, and being told there is no future in an ag career. Fortunately, there are visionary youth who see the forest beyond the trees and are willing take a stand and take their rightful place in the global swine industry.
Not only does this youth movement hold promise for the aging U.S. swine industry, showing that the next generation will be able to take the reins of the industry when given the opportunity, but this infusion of youth also reinvigorates industry veterans showing that there is the reason to be excited about being pig farmers.