If the youth are the future of the U.S. swine industry, it is never too early to get them interested. Lee Johnston, professor of Swine Nutrition and Management at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, and grandson Tysen Lee Johnston peruse the National Hog Farmer magazine. Courtesy of Justin Johnston
If the youth are the future of the U.S. swine industry, then it is never too early to get them interested. Lee Johnston, professor of Swine Nutrition and Management at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, and grandson Tysen Lee Johnston peruse the National Hog Farmer magazine.

Gentle nudge, great mentorship goes long way in pork industry

Get youth involved and interested in the U.S. swine industry by sharing the positives.

Election day 2018 couldn’t come soon enough. Maybe we just have short-term memories, but this year’s campaigns seemed a lot more nasty than elections of years past.

Both sides are equally nasty, so I’m not going to get into politicizing the messages from the Democrat or Republican camps. Every election season we strive to get the next generation of voters interested and involved in the process, but with the perpetual and growing negativity in the entire process, I would not be surprised to see the next generation turn away all together.

I’m not saying to avoid the election process; no, I am saying get informed and get out and vote. Regardless who wins and loses, the sun will still come up tomorrow. Let’s collectively brush off the muck and mud that has been slung and make this country great again. We need to do that for ourselves, but more importantly for future generations.

Speaking of future generations, now is the time to get young people involved and interested in the U.S. swine industry. It is fun to follow people on social media who get their children in the barns with the pigs. One great example is seeing Thomas Titus from Illinois sharing photos of his little #FarmHERS in the barns with the pigs on Facebook posts. A photo is worth a thousand words, and you can just see the pride and enthusiasm for the pigs and, indirectly, the industry beaming from the Titus’ girls faces.

Justin Johnston, coordinator of the Gordon W. Davis Meat Science Laboratory in the Texas Tech University Department of Animal and Food Sciences, recently sent photos (including the one above) of his dad, Lee Johnston reading a copy of National Hog Farmer to young Tysen Lee Johnston. As you can see, Lee Johnston is getting his grandson an early start in the swine industry, but according to the following note that Justin emailed, that’s nothing new.

“These photos have allowed me to look back on my childhood and reminisce. My dad has been serving the pork industry for over 30 years. In December 1988, he started as an assistant professor in Swine Nutrition at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center; he still serves in this position today. Many would say 30 years is quite an accomplishment in any career, but he has gone above and beyond. My dad has taken a personal interest in agricultural education in not only Stevens County, Minnesota, but the state, the nation and internationally. Throughout my childhood, my dad provided livestock for my sister and I — this built a strong work ethic and instilled a sense of responsibility in us both. The family was very active in 4-H and FFA through showing animals and especially 4-H Livestock Quiz bowl. In 2000, my dad introduced me to livestock bowl, and thought I was the most eager to go study and succeed, but I was wrong. Dad began to coach and eventually took over the program and sculpted it into one of the dominant programs in Minnesota. The program had several teams move on to the national level, with several high teams at AK-SAR-BEN and second high team at the North American International Livestock Exposition. I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of several of those teams.

“I know I’m biased, but there is no better spokesmen or mentor for the pork industry. My dad has always told me ‘never close a door, because you never know what opportunities may arise.’ Much to my chagrin, he has been right on multiple occasions, and that advice has helped me achieve my life goals.”

There are many other great examples of adults mentoring their children and other youth in whatever field of future endeavor.

If you are a young person who sees your future in the swine industry, it’s time for you to step up to become a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow. The National Pork Board is accepting applications through Nov. 12 for the third class of Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. If you are between the ages of 18 and 29, and have an interest in the swine industry, you may have what it takes to join the ranks of Adam Krause, Emma Lasco, Christine Snowden, Kyle Coble, Logan Thornton and Maddie (Schafer) Hokanson in the youth movement of telling the swine industry story.

And who knows, maybe in twenty-some years we will hear the name of Tysen Lee Johnston announced as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow. All our youth today need is a gentle nudge and great mentorship, and who knows what can happen in this great industry.

I am Kevin Schulz, and I approve this message.

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