One question Phil Hord routinely asks his research and nutrition team is, “Are we adding value?”
“I think that if we’re not adding value and we’re not continually finding ways to be more cost-effective, and working to help animals grow better — or, obviously, a combination of both — then we’re all out of a job, right?” says the soon-to-be 27-year-old and director of research innovation for Hord Family Farms. “We’re actively out here trying to make ourselves better, and ultimately be more competitive in the marketplace.”
For the fifth-generation north-central Ohio pork producer, coming back to the family farm wasn’t a sure bet when he started pursuing his business finance degree at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, in 2011. However, once he started taking courses in business management and operations, Hord says he reflected on his experience growing up on the farm and soon realized there was a massive opportunity waiting for him back home.
“Jumping into the business, my degree wasn’t in animal science or nutrition and didn’t have anything specifically to do with pigs, so I really kind of reset my focus during college,” Hord says.
“When I came back, I started working right in production, just really learning the business and the basics, because it did change while I was away at college. Also, obviously, coming from being a family member to being a professional and working in the business, it needed to look different as well.”
Hord and his wife, Becca, who serves as a communications coordinator for the family farm, have planted their roots in Crawford County. The young couple welcomed a baby girl, Amelia, earlier this year. Today, Hord oversees a research and nutrition team that looks at production challenges as well as evaluates new nutrition formulations, technologies and practices for all phases of pig production.
Before taking on his new role at the 29,000-sow operation in 2015, Hord gained experience off-farm during his college years, interning for Clemens Food Group as well as Fair Oaks Farms, where he had the opportunity to help jump-start the agritourism destination’s Pig Adventure site.
“To me, that was highly beneficial. As a team of interns working with the staff there, we had the opportunity to help get the Pig Adventure off the ground during its inaugural summer. Among many things, we had to figure out what our consistent response was going to be to the many questions coming from those that know nothing about animals,” Hord says. “The school that I went to is not an ag school, and none of my best friends from college are in agriculture whatsoever, so it really gave me the prime opportunity to understand what it was like to explain what we do and how food gets to the table.”
That experience helped set the stage for Hord, as the family now routinely hosts thousands of students each year on the family farm, and the young producer is also a regular “virtual field trip” contributor for the Ohio Pork Council.
Offered throughout the school year, virtual field trips give teachers the opportunity to connect their classrooms with an Ohio pig farm for a live video tour and Q&A session with the farmer.
“Just because we live in a rural area doesn’t mean everyone understands what actually happens, and it’s a great opportunity — just being able to virtually share our farm with them and to show what happens,” Hord says.
Swine’s Promising Next Generation is independently produced by National Hog Farmer and brought to you through the support of Boehringer Ingleheim.