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Having a Chance to "Talk Hogs"

Dale Miller's first editorial as the editor of National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1993.

The following editorial was the very first one Dale Miller wrote as the new editor of National Hog Farmer magazine, appearing in the October 15, 1993 issue.

I always get a little nostalgic this time of year. This fall, I have more reason than usual. After nearly 21 years of pork production and industry news reporting I find myself sitting in the chair of three men I have respected greatly over the years.

To be named the fourth editor in the 38-year history of this find publication is certainly an honor for me.

When I look back, it’s crystal clear that two people were instrumental in setting the course of my editorial career: Larry Rus and Neal Black.

I didn’t set out to be a hog editor. After growing up on a dairy and hog farm in southern Minnesota, working with as many 4-H projects as I could conceivably manage, it become increasingly clear to me that I liked working with hogs the most.

Apparently my parents sensed that my brother and sisters and I were competitive types so they converted our commercial hog herd over to seedstock production. If we were going to be a “hog family,” we wanted to raise better hogs.

Each blue ribbon or state fair trip reinforced my commitment to make the hog business my lifetime career.

College-bound, I didn’t think twice about choosing a major in animal science—with heavy emphasis on hog production, of course.

Then, during the summer break of my sophomore year, my “hog focus” took on a new dimension. A call from Larry Rus, then a breed association executive secretary, changed the course of my career. Rus offered me an opportunity to work as a summer field representative and to work on the breed magazine.

With all my worldly possessions packed into a ’67 Pontiac, I headed south to Rochester, IN, to begin a journey that continues today. After three summers jam-packed with herd visits, state fairs, breeder sales and the chance to meet some of the finest folks in the country I was hooked for good on hogs.

The chance to “talk hogs” with the most talented producers and industry experts in the world was very appealing to me.

Not a writer at heart, I took on the challenge of taking as many journalism courses as I could fit in my last few quarters at the University of Minnesota.

As luck would have it, Mr. Rus had a conversation with then National Hog Farmer editor Neal Black about the time I graduated. He kindly recommended me for a vacancy on the editorial staff.

C.R. Mitchell, founder of National Hog Farmer, decided it was time to relocate to a climate a little friendlier to his respiratory problems than Minnesota had been.

I’ll never forget my interview with Editor Black. I explained my journalism experience was limited but I’d be grateful for the opportunity to work on a magazine I considered to be the finest in the industry. Never one to mince words, he said something like, “I can teach you to write easier then I can teach you the hog business.”

That was nearly 21 years ago! Along the way I’ve met and interviewed some of the most talented producers and researchers in modern agriculture. My “hog travels” have taken me to over 40 states and half a dozen foreign countries. Yet, sometimes I think my morning and evening trips from my house to my hog barns keep me the most anchored in the challenges of raising—and writing about—hog production.

About halfway through my two-decade hitch here, Bill Fleming took over the reins from Neal Black. Most of you know Bill from his writings in this column. Many of you have had a chance to meet and visit with him. He’s been solid support for me and the rest of our staff.  His vision, encouragement to do the right stories, sometimes the tough stories, has been a major influence on guiding this award-winning publication.

Neal and Bill had different approaches to covering the pork industry. I’m glad I had the chance to work with both of them. I know I wouldn’t be writing this, my first “Opinion Page,” had it not been for the solid support and faith I received from these men.

I’m sure I owe them more than this pubic “thank you,” but I hope this recognition will help repay my indebtedness.

Now we are faced with the continuing challenge of offering the best possible editorial for the pork industry. I believe the editorial staff will make our predecessors proud.

Karen McMahon, our new managing editor, joined us on Oct. 1 with a solid “hog reporting” track record that has spanned over 15 years. She has written hog production and news stories for two major hog magazines. Her industry contacts are broad and her knowledge of the industry deep.

Joe Vansickle, senior associate editor, has developed an extensive network of industry contacts during his 16 years at National Hog Farmer. He is well-versed in swine diseases and animal health concerns and has vast contacts in government and regulatory circles. In an age when government regulations and environmental concerns are front-page news, he’ll keep you posted on how these threats could affect you.

Why all of this background? I think it’s only fair that you know a little more about who’s writing this column. We may not always agree. That’s OK. Some of the best thoughts and ideas I’ve heard came from people that had different thoughts than mine. Agree or not, I hope you’ll always feel free to call or write to “talk hogs.”

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