There Is Nothing Mundane About Your Farm’s Story, So Share It
Scott Phillips will never forget October 19, 1987. It was Black Monday, the day the stock market crashed, and he felt like he’d hit rock bottom.
“I was a broker for Edward Jones Investments, and God used this financial crisis to redirect me back to the farm,” said Phillips, who earned an ag economics degree from the University of Missouri and served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
By 1991, Phillips had followed in the footsteps of his father, who began raising pigs after he retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1967, back when hogs were known as “mortgage lifters.” Today, Phillips raises corn, soybeans and hogs near Drexel, Missouri.
“Your biggest failures can lead to your biggest joys,” said Phillips, whose family owns and operates Phillips Farms, a farrow-to-finish operation that sells 54,000 market pigs and 75,000 weaned pigs annually. “Farming gives me so much satisfaction because I’m adding value and helping feed people.”
Connecting with consumers, retailers and others has become increasingly important, Phillips said. He applauds Pork Checkoff programs such as Operation Main Street. Its nearly 1,500 volunteers have shared pork’s story of innovation, quality and stewardship with over 10,000 audiences.
“Stewardship defines pig farming, a job I do joyfully and faithfully,” said Phillips. “It inspires me to ask, ‘What’s best for my pigs and my land?’ Stewardship also reflects the long term – what will benefit future generations.”
Phillips appreciates the Checkoff’s #RealPigFarming social media platform. Farmers, college students, veterinarians and allied industry can connect with wide audiences on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
These efforts all build on the Pork Checkoff’s We CareSM ethical principles, which focus on people, food safety, animal well-being, the environment, public health and communities.
“What we do every day is routine to us, but it captivates non-farm audiences,” Phillips said. “You may think your story is mundane, but you’d be amazed how many people have never met a farmer before. You automatically have common ground, because everyone is interested in food.” He added, “As farmers, we all need to get out there and engage the public. If we don’t tell our story, who will?”
Millennial, Mom, Meat-Eater Values Hispanic Research
As a millennial, mom and meat-eater, Alicia Pedemonti says the insights from the Pork Checkoff’s new research into the purchasing power and tastes of today’s Latinos go far deeper than one specific group of consumers.
“Many things from the Pork Checkoff’s Hispanic research can be applied to all consumers,” said Pedemonti, who has a small, diversified farm with her family in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. “As I look at some of the top things Hispanic consumers say they’re willing to pay more for, most of them aren’t too different from what’s important to me.”
Checkoff research reveals that Latinos in America will soon represent more than $1.7 trillion in buying power. They spend $95 billion a year on packaged goods, plus they have a natural affinity for pork.
“The Latino research encourages us to rethink which meals can include pork,” said Pedemonti, who grew up with Puerto Rican culinary influences that her husband’s extended family brought to the table. “For many Hispanics, fresh pork in the form of carnitas might just as easily be served at breakfast as for other meals.”
Including pork at more meals fits many popular food trends such as the paleo diet, which typically includes lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – foods that our ancestors thousands of years ago could have obtained by hunting and gathering, Pedemonti noted. Pork also fits the Whole30 diet, with its focus on whole, unprocessed foods such as meat, seafood, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
“As more people shift away from carb-heavy breakfasts, lean, fresh pork can become a bigger part of the American breakfast,” said Pedemonti, whose family annually markets more than 100 pigs directly to consumers.
“Providing safe, nutritious pork will depend on pig farmers protecting their animals against disease challenges, especially African swine fever,” she said. “This requires a fully operational Secure Pork Supply (SPS).”
The Pork Checkoff supports an SPS plan to enhance communication and coordination among farmers and animal health officials to accelerate a successful response in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak.
As a veterinary technician with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, she brings a unique perspective to issues as a National Pork Board member. “While from a small ag state, I embrace being a millennial mom in a densely populated region,” Pedemonti said. “I’m honored to share my experiences to benefit the pork industry.”
Go Bold: Be Brave Enough to Think About What Others Do Not
When Gene Noem was growing up on a hog, cattle and crop farm near Bryant, South Dakota, manure management wasn’t much more complicated than scooping it out of the livestock pens and spreading it on the nearest field.
“Manure has always been used as a fertilizer. However, the closest fields and even the portion of field closest to the gate would often receive more than their share of fertilizer,” said Noem, who serves as treasurer of the National Pork Board. “It took bold thinking, new technology and a more sophisticated approach to crop agronomics and nutrient management to show the true value of manure and to manage it more effectively and sustainably.”
Bold thinking also holds the key to pig farmers’ ability to prevent the introduction and spread of disease, even African swine fever (ASF), he noted.
“Be brave enough to think about things other people do not,” said Noem of Ames, Iowa. He manages the contracted gilt multiplication for PIC North America. He also serves on the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s board.
Consider how swine diseases can spread, he said. What about vaccination crews coming to your farm? Do you help your neighbor load hogs? What about feed and other supplies delivered to your farm? Ever use the same portable chutes at a number of different swine barns?
“Ask yourself, ‘How could these things spread disease? How can we avoid these risks?’ It’s worth the effort to make decisions before a big problem hits,” he said.
“Focusing on good animal husbandry also is key. We need to do everything we can to improve the experience animals have while they’re in our care,” Noem said. “Don’t just look at the readings on the controller. Go through the barn and see if the hogs are comfortable and healthy.”
Collaborate with your veterinarian, local swine Extension specialists and other livestock industry professionals, as well as utilize Checkoff resources, he said.
“If ASF or another foreign animal disease is found in livestock here, federal and state regulatory officials will limit the movement of animals to help control the spread of disease,” Noem said. “The Secure Pork Supply plan includes a Continuity of Business Plan to help you prepare before an outbreak.”
Having these plans in place will better position pork farms with no evidence of infection to move animals to processing facilities or to other pork production premises so they can keep their businesses going. “The Checkoff is here to support you,” he said. “A lot of resources have been invested to protect our industry and to remain a key pork supplier for the world.”