Leon Sheets is a tireless ball of energy when it comes to promoting pig farming, but he’s just as passionate about promoting farm safety.
“On Sept. 15, 2014, I was involved in an accident that changed my life,” said Sheets, who runs a wean-to-finish pig farm in northeast Iowa. “I was in my barn to do a quick rinse to prepare for pressure washing. Minutes after starting, I found myself engulfed in an explosion and fireball.”
After recovering from severe burns, Sheets began promoting safety precautions for power washing and pumping manure.
“Not only are these protocols important for humans, but pigs are often at the scene and need to be protected, too,” he said.
This focus on pigs’ safety and well-being has long defined Sheets, who markets about 33,000 pigs per year. He isn’t shy about speaking up for the pork industry, whether he’s presenting to local high school culinary classes or promoting U.S. pork on trade mission trips overseas.
“Pig farmers do care,” he emphasized. “We need to connect with consumers so they know that we care for our pigs, our farms and our communities.”
Sheets has shared this message in countless media interviews and more than 40 presentations through the Pork Checkoff’s Operation Main Street program. He explains why pig farming has changed through the years and how this benefits the animals, starting with climate-controlled barns.
“From the time a pig arrives on my farm until it leaves, we try to provide a warm, clean, dry, draft-free environment,” he noted.
Then Sheets explains how more emphasis on proper pig handling and health protocols results in less stress for pigs and people.
“I believe pigs today have a more comfortable living area and a better chance at survival with less environmental pressure and less handling stress,” he said.
Sheets’ employees are required to be certified in Pork Quality Assurance® Plus and Transport Quality Assurance® to ensure pigs’ safety and well-being. Sheets works closely with his veterinarian to keep his pigs healthy.
“Pigs are No. 1 on our farm,” Sheets said. “Producing pork is what we do and who we are.”
Giving back to the community is equally important.
“I strive to lead and encourage the next generation, plus I learn from them,” said Sheets, a past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association who has served as the Chickasaw County livestock judging coach. “It’s rewarding to watch these kids grow and assume leadership roles in the community and the ag industry.”