Christine Snowden loves being with her “girls.” She’s not speaking of her high school or college classmates, she’s referring to the gilts and sows under her care as farrowing manager for an AMVC-managed farm in Illinois.
She started with AMVC two years ago in the company’s leadership development program, before becoming an assistant farrowing manager, and ultimately achieving her goal of becoming a manager by the time she turned 25 in November. She was promoted in May. “I was looking for more responsibility with AMVC,” she says, and the opportunity to manage a new 2,200-sow barn for an Illinois family in partnership with AMVC is providing that. She made the move to the Greenfield, Ill., farm in July, and “we’re in the process of getting the girls heat-checked and giving them their vaccinations, and slowly getting parts of the barn ready for more girls to be moved in, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Part of that excitement is that this barn is a new endeavor for Snowden as this farm is also a genetic farm, producing purebred Line 3 PIC gilts, “so we’ll be producing our own replacement gilts. … hopefully we’ll have baby pigs by Dec. 27.”
“Farrowing is my favorite part,” she says. “I like the fast pace. Farrowing is just a little faster pace than breeding, just going down the line and breeding. There’s always something new in farrowing, that’s why I like it.”
This passion for her “girls” and for pork production in general shows through and is part of the reason that she joins Emma Lasco and Adam Krause in the second class of Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. Since the three were announced at the Pork Industry Forum in March, they have been sharing their pig farming stories to the public, and Snowden’s passion shines through as she takes her “followers” through the building of this new facility.
“I found this (being Pig Farmer of Tomorrow) to be super, super enjoyable and super rewarding, because getting to go talk to young people is one of my favorite things to do,” she says, adding that’s been rewarding to “give the pork industry the best light” on social media platforms and other speaking engagements.
“I love it every day; not sure I could go a day without being with my ‘girls’. It’s so rewarding to know that they’re creating babies that will help feed the world, and that they’re also creating babies that will go on to create babies at other farms to help feed the world,” she says. “This is very exciting and rewarding of the experiences that I’ll get to be able to work with genetics at this farm,” in contrast to her previous work at a commercial farm that was producing the finished pork product. “Now, I’ll get to work on the genetics so other farms can get better because of the babies I’m sending them to be their replacement gilts.”
Though her passion and excitement for her job bubbles to the surface, she is realistic when she says “some days are not always the greatest, but those are good too because you can grow from those challenges and get better.”
On the genetic farm, Snowden says it’s all about getting better. “We’re matching the female index with the boar index to create a better female that’s even better than she is,” keeping her girls around until the sixth through ninth parities, “or until their production index starts dropping off.”
Since we are in the middle of Porktober, Snowden shifts gears to stressing the importance of “kids coming out of college and wanting to work with animals, but they may not think working in a barn is the most professional, but I want them to think that anyone wanting to get into the swine industry is an amazing profession. You get to work with animals all day, you get to know that you’re feeding the world, and you get to share your passion regardless if it’s on social media or with the animals and how well you take care of them. That’s my message, we aren’t just farmers inside the barn. We are caring for animals that are going to be in the food supply, and we are doing it in a professional way.”
She is hoping to continue spreading the pork production story by getting Operation Main Street training, in addition to using her social media platforms of choice — Instagram and Facebook. “I love Instagram, because it’s all about the pictures, and that allows you to really show your passion,” she says.
For the month of October, Real Pig Farming encourages all connected with the U.S. swine industry to participate in a 31-day photo challenge, each day posting a photo on social media of specific aspects of their operation. For example, Oct. 1, barn picture; Oct. 17, harvest picture, and Oct. 22, holding cute piglets. You can catch up with Snowden on Facebook to see her progression throughout Porktober.
Snowden did a Facebook Live event yesterday promoting that the National Pork Board is now accepting applications for the next class of Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. Her sales pitch to prospective applicants: “It’s a great way to show your passion for the industry on a national platform whether it’s through our blogs or through social media, and also a great way to build yourself in the industry. One of the greatest things is that you get to meet so many people and leaders of this great industry.”
Exposure to leaders on the national level created an interest in Snowden to enroll in the Pork Leadership Institute, to learn the political side of the industry, “and be able to share our story with Congressmen and women and Senators, so that they can understand what we do every day, and why it’s important to look at labor laws, and it’s important to understand what’s going on with Mexico and Canada, and all of the other things that are impacting our industry and to put a face to the issues.”
Once her farm is completely up and running, she hopes to get more involved with leadership both with Illinois Pork Producers and within AMVC. When she joined AMVC, she came on board as a leadership development swine specialist, going through a year-long program touching on every aspect of becoming an assistant manager or manager, “they want you to learn everything so that you can be the best that you can be.”
Since we are in Pork Month, and it’s all about the wonderful product that Snowden, her girls and all other U.S. producers work tirelessly to provide for consumers, she feels it’s important to interact with consumers. “I suggest consumers ask the questions that you want to ask, and don’t feel that they’re dumb questions. I feel like consumers just want to know what goes on in the sow barns, and to trust that what we’re doing in the sow barns is that we are doing our best, so you can rest assured that you have the best possible cut of meat on your plate to feed your family or friends.”
And what cut does Snowden turn to when she is entertaining with pork? “I love a good pork chop,” she says. “I was in charge of my first adult Christmas dinner, and my mom and brother and aunt and uncle came to Audubon to see me, and my favorite is a good pork chop, so I looked on Pinterest and found a recipe for ranch dressing on pork chops. Everybody loved it. … I think if you put ranch or bacon on anything it will be better than it originally was.”
That in itself is a pretty good Pork Month message: Everything’s better with bacon on it!