The stars shone brightly as this week’s Minnesota Pork Congress kicked off with the annual Minnesota pork industry awards.
Lee Johnston, a professor of swine nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, remembers the first time that he met Larry Jacobson. It was the 1988 World Pork Expo, and Johnston had just finished graduate school at Michigan State University and was starting with the University of Minnesota. Even though Johnston was new to the university and Jacobson had been there since 1974, Johnston was greeted and accepted as a research colleague, which he would become over the years.
“Larry is a practical guy, he cuts to the chase,” Johnston says, before Jacobson took the stage to accept his award for Environmental Steward of the Year. “His easy-going, quiet demeanor made him a very good teacher.”
As pig farmers have long known, and people moving to the rural areas have reminded them, pig farms create odor, and that issue has caused turmoil across the Heartland. Jacobson’s work with a team developed OFFSET (Odor From Feedlot Setback Estimation Tool) to help farms that were facing pressure from neighbors and the public during hog industry growth period of the 1990s.
“I remember he would set people 100 yards, 200 yards, quarter-mile away from barns and ask them if they could smell pigs,” Johnston says. “We called them the ‘nasal rangers’.”
Once OFFSET was developed, Jacobson and his team worked with county feedlot officers and other local officials on an individual basis to reach the local level and get support. “I think the whole pork industry thanks you (Jacobson) for your work,” Johnston says.
“Some of the work that we’ve dealt with have been challenged, and will continue to do so,” says Jacobson, who retired about 1 ½ years ago, “but pork producers have been great innovators. … In my experience, producers want to do the right thing. I think, fundamentally, producers want to be good environmental stewards of the land. Producers all want something sustainable that doesn’t waste nutrients or water, that recycles and reuses resources. I think that’s environmental sustainability.”
Just as Jacobson worked with a team to make his research work successful, every hog producer knows it takes a lot of support of family and hired hands to make a successful hog operation.
John and Rosie Schwartz, Joe and Judy Schwartz, and Mark and Anita Schwartz of Sleepy Eye, Minn., and their families have built a business based on their shared core values of integrity, respect, excellence, innovation and adaptability.
Though the families’ main business today centers around hogs, Schwartz Farms began as crop farmers in 1978. Hogs were slowly brought into the operation, buying feeder pigs that were first fed on outdoor lots, then in a building converted from grain storage to work with a contract farrowing farm in 1992. They bought their first sow farm in the late-1990s.
This gradual production growth has widened the Schwartz Farms’ footprint to reach across four states — Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. With that production growth came the need for more team members (350 full-time employees) and more than 250 independent contract growers. The Schwartz brothers understand the importance of the people that they employ and partner with to produce an abundant, safe and healthy supply of pork for the country and the world. This dedication to the industry and their communities earned Schwartz Farms title of Family of the Year for Minnesota.
Other awards given out were …
Distinguished Service: Robert Morrison
Pork Promoter of the Year: Wakefield Pork
Swine Manager of the Year: Dustin Bakke, Compart’s Boar Store.