Kari Underly and Leslie McCuiston
Respected Chicago butcher Kari Underly (left) and pig farmer Leslie McCuiston both are leading out loud in their respective career paths.

As the Pork Checkoff’s newly named 2017 America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM, Leslie McCuiston spent two full days in Chicago during early October being interviewed by television, radio and digital media. With the millions of people that she reached through media outlets in just 48 hours, you’d never guess that the Columbus, Nebraska, pork producer used to shy away from the limelight.

For McCuiston, pig farming isn’t just a job – it’s a career that she is passionate about. And that enthusiasm has spilled over into welcoming every opportunity to assure consumers that pig farmers take great care to raise their animals in an ethical and transparent way.

In Chicago, McCuiston, who is a senior production manager for The Maschhoffs, took the local, regional and national stage through desk-side editorial visits, radio interviews and a satellite media tour. Media from across the country asked her about how pigs are raised and about the vital role women play today in agriculture. This included TV, radio and internet media in some of America’s largest U.S. cities, as well as everywhere from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Las Vegas, and from Wichita to Cleveland.

Joining her was Kari Underly, a third-generation Chicago butcher, author and principal of Range®, Inc., a meat marketing and education firm. The two women met with with Reuters, the Brownfield Network, Bloomberg and other media outlets. A Facebook Live session from Chicago with veteran farm broadcaster Max Armstrong and dinner with an elite group of Chicago-based food influencers, including registered dietitians, helped the pair deliver positive messages about pig farming to a wider audience.

McCuiston is always quick to point out the amazing people on her team, who focus daily on doing what’s best for the pigs in their care.

“We routinely involve veterinarians and nutritionists to ensure that what we’re doing daily fits the animals’ changing needs,” McCuiston said. “We have a great story to tell consumers, and I think it’s amazing.”

McCuiston looks forward to sharing facts about raising pigs this year as America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. And she urges all producers to get out of their comfort zones and join her in leading out loud.

– Jan Jorgensen, editor