Pig Farmers of Tomorrow

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The National Pork Board has named Bailee Arnold from North Carolina, Ben Luebbering from Missouri and Ben Wikner from Iowa as the 2019 Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. They were recognized at the 2019 National Pork Industry Forum in Orlando. The award recognizes farm leaders, ages 18-29, who intend to make pig farming their life’s work and who are committed to raising pigs using the pork industry’s We CareSM ethical principles. The winners will speak at Pork Checkoff events and provide content on #RealPigFarming, which is the pork industry’s social media program.


Don Wick


Bailee Arnold. Ben Luebbering, and Ben Wikner, 2019 Pig Farmers of Tomorrow, Multiple




Don Wick: 00:17 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today we focus in on the Pig Farmers of Tomorrow, the 2019 honorees recognized at the National Pork Industry Forum. And this year’s award winners are Bailee Arnold from North Carolina, Ben Luebbering from Missouri and Ben Wikner from Iowa. We’re going to have a conversation with each of these young agricultural leaders beginning with Bailee Arnold. Bailee, first of all, tell me a bit more about your background and your involvement in the swine industry.

Bailee Arnold: 00:47 So my background in the swine industry is that I have been working for Goldsboro Milling Company since 2013. I’m a manager and that is honestly all the background I have. I have no personal background before school, until now.

Don Wick: 01:02 So why did you apply for this award?

Bailee Arnold: 01:04 Well the Pig Farmers of Tomorrow award is to really show-case the We Care ethical principles. And I find that those really applied to my day in and day out work here on the farm. And I wanted to show that, what they mean to me and what they mean for my company out here.

Don Wick: 01:18 Tell me, Bailee, why is it important for agriculture to tell its story?

Bailee Arnold: 01:22 Now more than ever, agriculture needs to be as transparent as possible because our generation is so intrigued by where our food comes from, how it’s grown, how we care about our environment, you know, what we’re doing for our communities. And those We Care ethical principles apply to all those things. And so now we need to show the consumer that this is what we do, this is how we raise your food. You know, we need to have open doors and really show them that we’re, that we’re not hiding anything. So it’s really important for us now.

Don Wick: 01:54 Any final thoughts?

Bailee Arnold: 01:56 I just want to say that it’s a really awesome opportunity and a great responsibility to be able to represent my company in such a way. And I’m very grateful for my company for giving me this opportunity and grateful to the National Pork Board for giving me this opportunity. I’m really excited about being a voice for young women in agriculture and also young families in agriculture and showing that what I grow on my farm, it’s good enough for my family. And I have the highest standards for my family. And so I’m excited to share that with all the others out there.

Don Wick: 02:27 Next up, Ben Luebbering from Missouri. Ben, tell me about your involvement in the swine industry.

Ben Luebbering: 02:33 I guess I’ve been involved with the swine industry since the moment I was born, I guess. I grew up on my family’s farm where we raise farrow to finish market hogs, and so I’m still really involved with that and planning on going home to the farm after I’m done here {inaudible}. I still help out on the weekends. And then I’m actually able to work a couple days in the middle of the week at the university swine farm. So that gives me a little bit of perspective that, not only my own farm, but here. So I guess you could say that most of my life revolves around the swine industry.

Don Wick: 03:09 Of course this Pig Farmer of Tomorrow program, what made you interested in applying for it, Ben?

Ben Luebbering: 03:14 Well, I think as a young farmer, a lot of times I don’t necessarily hear other kids my age being excited about farming or thinking that there’s a way in or that it’s something that they could do. So when I saw the Pig Farmer of Tomorrow opportunity, I thought it would be a great platform to share that, you know, if kids my age are wanting to go back to the farm, that that’s okay and they should be passionate about it. A lot of times we hear people saying that they shouldn’t go into farming because of the hours or the money, but if that’s what you love to do, that’s something you should pursue. And I wanted to share that message and kind of show kids that I’m going back to the farm as someone their age, so they shouldn’t necessarily be scared to do it either.

Don Wick: 03:58 What’s a good way to connect with those consumers, the non-farming audience as it relates to pig production?

Ben Luebbering: 04:04 We do a lot on the social media platforms as far as using, you know, Facebook and Instagram, that kind of thing, sharing the farm story. It’s an easy and quick way to get right to the consumer. We’re able to share snapshots from day to day operations on our farm and really show them what’s going on in the industry and you know, hopefully that makes it a little bit easier for them to come to us with questions or concerns so that we can answer them in an efficient manner. You know, there’s less and less people that were raised on a farm and the gap’s growing more each day. So I think the social media really helps us to reach a wide array of people, while still being at home on the farm, doing what we love.

Don Wick: 04:52 Seems like there’s a lot of misconceptions about agriculture, in total. Do you see this as a forum to help combat that somewhat?

Ben Luebbering: 05:03 Yes! Definitely, I mean, obviously a lot of the Pig Farmer of Tomorrow thing is some of the We Care principles about, you know, animal welfare and helping our communities and things. So I think it’s a great platform to kind of combat some of those misconceptions by showing, you know, how much we care about our animals and the livestock, and what we do on a daily basis to really take care of them. It’s not all about what some of the activist groups portray farmers as. And I think this opportunity as Pig Farmer of Tomorrow really, I guess, gives me and the other nominees a platform to really share our message and kind of combat those misconceptions. So one thing I just want to portray is that, you know, when we’re talking about even these misconceptions or you know, what people think goes on in the farm that, you know, I think that they should be ready to approach us. And I hope that I can portray that throughout my time as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow. That I’m an open book. And anything that someone wants to know or has questions about pig farming or farming in general, I’d be happy to try to answer.

Don Wick: 06:13 And from Ben Luebbering, we turn to Ben Wikner. Ben from Iowa. Ben, tell me a bit more about your background.

Ben Wikner: 06:19 Last year at the National Pork Industry Forum, I was down there as a Lois Britt Memorial Scholarship winner and I got to watch the 2018 Pig Farmers of Tomorrow be introduced. And at that point I kind of said, you know, that’s something I enjoy, advocating for the pork industry and I have a passion for raising pigs. I said, that’s where I want to be next year. So I took my skills of communicating, tried to hone them in a little bit, and I applied this last fall and I was fortunate enough to be awarded with that honor. So I was raised on a, we have a sow farm in northeast Iowa. My Dad started our sow farm in the 70s, so I’ll be a second generation farmer and I’m pretty proud of that. We raise corn, soybeans and then we have, we raise piglets until three weeks old where they, from there they go on to the finisher. This is something that I was born and raised into ever since I can remember. I was outside helping feed pigs or follow dad around. So it’s always been something that’s kind of been in my life.

Don Wick: 07:21 We just talked about how important it is to tell our story. What do you want to make sure consumers or some of the industry stakeholders know about this industry?

Ben Wikner: 07:32 First, and foremost, is that the next generation is here! That we are here to take on the challenge of telling our We Care story and telling about how pigs are raised in modern production. And secondly, I’d just like to share that we eat and consume the same pork as everybody else. When I go to the grocery store, I know that an American farmer put that pork there and that it’s a safe, wholesome product. And I feel safe feeding that to myself, my family, and any of my friends, and I want the consumer to know that.

Don Wick: 08:04 It should be an exciting year ahead!

Ben Wikner: 08:07 Yes! Yeah, I’m extremely excited and honored with this award, so really look forward to telling my story and sharing on our farm what we do every day to care for pigs and raise a healthy product.

Don Wick: 08:18 Again, congratulations to the 2019 Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. This award recognizes farm leaders ages 18 to 29 who intend to make pig farming their life’s work and who are committed to raising pigs using the industry’s We Care ethical principles. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.