Drew Kuhn’s wife, Kayla, likes to joke with him, “How can you be tired? You drove around all day.” The Genoa, Ill., pork producer admits she’s right, as he spends a majority of his day driving among sites.
Kuhn estimates he puts 700 to 900 miles on his car a week as the production manager for Sturtevant Hog Farms, traveling among its 26 sites. However, the 30-year-old says the road time is completely worth it.
“I wanted to go to work for somebody that was on the cutting edge and wanting to challenge things, because that’s kind of where I want to be,” Kuhn says. “I want to eventually have my dad’s farm be top-performing. You always want to be working with the top people when you can, so that’s why I joined them.”
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2012, Kuhn first took a job working for a Pipestone System farm near Independence, Iowa, and then later at a farrow-to-finish operation near DeKalb, Ill. But then an opportunity arose to move closer to his family’s farm, and Kuhn says he knew he had to take it.
“My long-term goal is to eventually be back home farming full time. We just haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet,” Kuhn says.
Work and family
By day, Kuhn oversees the Sturtevant farm’s system, which includes moving 85,000 wean-to-finish pigs to market per year.
By night, he’s back home working with his dad and younger brother at their 1,200-acre corn and soybean farm, raising 4,000 wean-to-finish pigs per year.
If he’s been around a sick group of pigs during his full-time job, he will end the day there and not go to his dad’s farm.
It’s a long day, but it’s a routine Kuhn has maintained for the past four years — and one he will continue until he and his brother can work full time with their dad.
“The biggest thing is going to be if we are going to work alongside my father, it would involve some form of expansion — either more pigs or more ground,” Kuhn says. “At this point, more pigs would be the easier route, because we are already competing with larger grain farms in the area.”
Education on the job
In the meantime, Kuhn is happy to immerse himself with such a large, progressive operation. He says his bosses, Mark and Brian Sturtevant, are always willing to work with feed companies to try different rations or different products, and the farm is often running trials to try to improve pig health and performance numbers.
While Kuhn says he’s soaking up a wealth of knowledge from the Sturtevants, his career aspiration is to work full time on the family farm.
“It’s a scenario we’re working through — what it will take to make it a viable option, like adding more barns. It would be a big investment,” Kuhn says.
“Even for a family with deep farming roots, we have to make smart, strategic decisions to ensure a successful future for each of us.”
Until then, Kuhn says “I’ll keep making the daily trek, checking pigs and doing what I love.”