As he walked across the Stanford University campus in December, apprehension accompanied Brad Greenway. Sharing pork’s story is second nature to the 2016 America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM, but his meeting with the university’s food service directors seemed daunting – at first.
“I was surprised by how interested they were in what we do on the farm,” said Greenway, who farms with his wife, Peggy, near Mitchell, South Dakota. “They asked awesome questions and made comments such as, ‘I had no idea about all the technology you use to keep pigs comfortable.’”
The productive, four-hour meeting turned into much more, Greenway noted.
“Stanford’s foodservice directors wanted to continue the conversation and invited me back that evening to share more information,” said Greenway, whose comments were incorporated into the food blog “I Am the First Bite” written by a Stanford employee. “Now is our chance to become a trusted resource for people who are seeking answers.”
The element of surprise works to pig farmers’ advantage, said Greenway, who has been influencing food conversations in some unlikely venues and through media interviews. His past year as America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, as well as chair of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, has included:
- Media tours. “Fast and furious” is how Greenway described the non-stop media interviews he participated in last fall when he was named America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. Not only did he do in-person interviews around Chicago, where the event was held, but he participated in 29 TV and radio interviews nationwide.
“Media opportunities have shown me that people are interested in agriculture,” Greenway said. “Consumers want to know someone is taking care of our animals daily and doing the right thing.”
- The Consumer Electronics Show. “Technology and agriculture go hand in hand, from crop production to robotic milking to pig farming,” said Greenway, who noted that the show attracted 175,000 people.
At the event, Greenway helped roll out 360-degree virtual reality videos that were filmed on Illinois pork producer Phil Borgic’s pig farm.
“This was a unique opportunity to share agriculture’s story with a new audience,” he said.
- Sustainable Ag Summit. Animal activists, food buyers for Dunkin’ Donuts and other audience members attended the summit in Atlanta, where Greenway participated in a panel with a Smithfield Foods representative.
“We explained what pig farmers are doing to be more sustainable,” said Greenway, who addressed manure management and more efficient electrical use on the farm.
- Facebook Live. Social media, including Facebook Live, allow Greenway to show daily life on his farm.
“I’m in my comfort zone in the barn,” said Greenway, who demonstrated the climate-control system during a recent Facebook Live broadcast. Views of the animals generated the most response, he added.
- Facetime. The video chat system allowed Greenway to remain on his farm while interacting with Iowa State University students in a Contemporary Ag Issues class.
“I talked with 175 students in 10 minutes, which is pretty efficient,” he noted. “While technology is powerful, nothing beats one-to-one conversations.”
He added, “It’s something I encourage everyone to do. It can be as simple as talking to your neighbor. People are interested in food, so we need to have these conversations.”