Pork Leadership Institute Develops the Next Generation of Industry Leaders

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Today we’re focusing in on the Pork Leadership Institute, a Leadership Development Program organized by the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council. We will showcase a few of the individuals in this past years pork leadership institute class. Beginning with Rod Leman from Iowa.


Don Wick


Rod Leman

Christine Snowden

Kristy Johnson




Don Wick: 00:00 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’re focusing in on the Pork Leadership Institute, a Leadership Development Program organized by the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council. We will showcase a few of the individuals in this past years Pork Leadership Institute class. Beginning with Rod Leman from Iowa.

Rod Leman: 00:32 I’ve been in pork production for about 27 years. I reside in Fort Dodge, Iowa and I have five kids and a wife there. And, we’re busy family, but I’ve spent the last 27 years growing and developing a pork production business in Iowa. And, I’ve been fortunate recently to be involved with National Pork Producer Council and the National Pork Boards Pork Leadership Institute, which is what I’m working on today.

Don Wick: 01:12 The Leman name is pretty well known in the swine industry.

Rod Leman: 01:17 Yes. I got an uncle who was an executive with Tyson and my father was a veterinarian at the University of Minnesota and left quite a legacy in the pig business, one that I try to live up to every day. So.

Don Wick: 01:35 Very, very interesting. This Pork Leadership Institute, tell me about it, Rod. What, what’s this program about?

Rod Leman: 01:41 Well, it’s a joint program between National Pork Board and National Pork Producer Council. That’s trying to identify future leaders and influencers in the pork industry and give them the tools and the training that they need to, you know, to tell our story, in the pork business and to help advance the initiative that pork producers are interested in, both at the state legislative level and at the national legislative level. And you know, to be ambassadors for the, for pork producers and the allied industries around pork production. So they’ve, it’s a small group that is put together each year. I think there’s 20 people in my group here and we’ve gotten together now four times over the last year. Get a lot of exposure to the like I said, the, the National Pork Producers Council staff and understanding the structure there as well as the Pork Board staff and understanding the structure and the capabilities of those two groups. So it’s been great.

Don Wick: 02:51 So four meetings, so what kind of events, what do you learn during the session?

Rod Leman: 02:56 Well, we’ve talked a lot about policy, public policy issues, everything from trade to regulatory issues that affect you know, pork production. We spend a lot of time here in this last meeting talking about public relations, social media training and then we did one of the highlights of the season or the program was trade trip. We went to Bogota Colombia, last fall and spent three or four days deep diving into the culture there and into the US market or the pork market for US pork. And just a fascinating trip understanding how we can take advantage of developing foreign markets. So it’s, yeah, it’s a broad, broad range of topics. And really the staff do a really good job of preparing us to, you know, go out in the world and be advocates for pork production. So it’s great.

Don Wick: 04:06 Having that international experience, it’s got to be pretty eye opening.

Rod Leman: 04:11 Well, it is. I’ve been fortunate, really myself to have traveled a lot. And one thing you get, certainly when you go abroad is perspective about how great it is and how fortunate we are to live in the United States and, and just, you know, all the advantages and benefits we have here, particularly as it’s related to food production and our ability to produce really the safest and highest quality and most affordable product, almost no matter what the agricultural product, I mean, all the way from pork and beef to corn and soybeans and you know the infrastructure that we have here in the US, the regulatory environment we have here in the US all, all the things that help us do the job right in agriculture, you just gain a new appreciation for that. Even though sometimes we think, you know, we may be overregulated and things like that, when you really look at what’s going on in the rest of the world, it’s no wonder that the rest of the world comes to us when they want to buy safe and affordable food. Cause we really have the best system in the world. And that comes into sharp view when you, when you step outside the borders. So.

Don Wick: 05:32 You talked about being an advocate. It’s really easy when you take a look at some of the good people in this business and really the opportunities that we have.

Rod Leman: 05:43 Well, we were talking about that today. And I really, I really believe this. If there’s one thing I really want people to know is that, you know, every day, and certainly pork producers, but all around agriculture, I really think that the farmers here in the United States are really focused on their customers every day. They’re really trying to say, you know, what can I do today to improve my operation, my business, my production in order to satisfy the consumer’s needs for, you know, safe and high quality and affordable food. And, and I think hopefully, you know, what I’m learning to do is to help people understand that and communicate in a way that gives them confidence and trust in the fact that that’s exactly what we’re trying to do every day. And we’re really thinking about them every day. It’s really true. So.

Don Wick: 06:33 Some great information, Rod Leman with this out of Fort Dodge, Iowa a part of the Pork Leadership Institute.

Rod Leman: 06:39 Yeah. Thanks Don. I appreciate the opportunity.

Don Wick: 06:41 Christine Snowden from Ohio is also a part of the Pork Leadership Institute.

Christine Snowden: 06:45 I am currently a gilt selection officer for Heimerl Farms. Which means that I get to help them select their incoming females to their sow farms and also create orders with the females that we have for other sow farms across the world. So, it’s very exciting. I’m really enjoying it. I just got started so there’s a lot to learn. But so far, I’m really enjoying it.

Don Wick: 07:12 Now, you’re part of this Pork Leadership Institute. Tell me about this program and some of your other involvement in the in the pork industry.

Christine Snowden: 07:20 So I am in the PLI group, which is our short term for the Pork Leadership Institute. Within this program really we have four sessions and we get to break down what National Pork Board does for us and what the National Pork Producers Council does for us and how we can gain competence and knowledge of the pork industry to share the best message on behalf of the pork industry. So we’ve gotten to go to DC and visit with our state reps and all that kind of thing and really pushed the pork agenda and understand the pork politics. And we’ve also gotten to go to Bogota, Columbia and see how pork is doing in that space. So it’s very interesting and very exciting. We’ve gotten to learn a lot through those different experiences and just learning who represents us, where our dollars go to for NPPC and National Pork Board.

Christine Snowden: 08:25 So it’s very exciting that way. And then my background. So I’ve been involved with the pork industry since I was nine years old. Started in 4H with show pigs, went to The Ohio State University for Animal Sciences and came out and started working for swine company. I worked in sow farms for three years moving up, managed a sow farm in Illinois for a while, a line three genetic multiplier. And within that time I also serving the National Pork Board as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow for 2018 which was very exciting. I really enjoyed it. Got to share really great messages through my own social media and other platforms that the National Pork Board helped us with. And then now I am working back home, move back to Ohio and working for Heimerl Farms.

Don Wick: 09:18 So when you take a look at this industry as a whole pork industry, what opportunities do you see today, Christine?

Christine Snowden: 09:25 Oh, so many opportunities I think, especially for people in my age group. So I am a millennial. And obviously we don’t all come back to the farm, but I think there’s an immense opportunity for people my age to come back to the farm and feel like they are really helping to feed the world. And I think that’s why I wake up every morning. I want to put a safe product on the dinner table for families all around the world and just feel good knowing that I was a part of that because I care so much about the animals that I work with.

Don Wick: 09:58 Congratulations for being a part of this Pork Leadership Institute and all that you’re doing for the pork industry, Christine.

Christine Snowden: 10:05 Thank you.

Don Wick: 10:06 And as we continue our focus on the Pork Leadership Institute, here’s Kristy Johnson from Illinois.

Kristy Johnston: 10:11 Well, good day and thank you for having me. My background, I am from, well I live in Greenville, Illinois. I live on a dairy farm with my husband and my two kids. I’ve got an agriculture degree from Carbondale. I work for the Maschhoff’s where today I cover all of the marketing and logistics for that pig production company. So that’s a quick little background.

Don Wick: 10:37 Now, you’re part of this Pork Leadership Institute, it’s a leadership development program. Tell us about this effort. Uh, what’s this year been like? What have you learned?

Kristy Johnson: 10:46 Well, we have had four sessions to the PLI program, 2 in DC, one trip overseas to Columbia. And then this one where we are currently in Des Moines at the Pork Board. The biggest opportunity that I’ve had with the experience has been to learn and interact with more peers throughout the industry. I’ve made some very great relationships and I’ve gained a huge amount of exposure to the voice that the National Pork Board and NPPC offer pork producers and assist in the pork industry.

Don Wick: 11:26 It’s a pretty diverse group, when you take a look at the fellow classmates you have in this Pork Leadership Institute, what do you gain from having that diversity at the table?

Kristy Johnson: 11:39 Oh, I have gained a great amount of respect and knowledge from learning about their roles in the industry. I’ve learned about their families, the demographics at where they live. It has just been an overall great opportunity to gain multiple perspectives and friendships throughout the entire experience.

Don Wick: 12:07 We’re talking about advocating for industry. What’s, what’s the message? What do you want folks to know about agriculture and pork production in particular?

Kristy Johnson: 12:17 Well, I would tell you that the main message is that we are passionate individuals. We care immensely about our animals and taking care of the land. And we want to produce a very safe quality pork protein at the end of the day.

Don Wick: 12:36 Well, again, quite a program, the Pork Leadership Institute. Kristy, thanks for the chance to visit.

Kristy Johnson: 12:42 Thank you very much.

Don Wick: 12:43 Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.