Where One Door Closes, Another Opens

If you follow Musings of a Pig Farmer on Facebook, you might have seen my August 8th status update that included a #felfie of my wife and me in the pig barn. I wrote, “Today marks the end of daily pig chores for me… but a new beginning where I can make a difference for a much larger number of pigs by improving hundreds of barns.”

I’ve hinted over the past couple of month about making a “career move.” InsteadSailer selfie of using so much brawn to take care of pigs daily, I decided it’s time for me to use a little more of the knowledge that I’ve gained as a pork producer to help others improve their operations. While this may seem like a big change made in a short amount of time, it’s actually been in the works since last fall.

You may recall that last fall I had one of those “I never thought it would happen to me” moment when my combine caught on fire. Although I had insurance, I didn’t have as much coverage as I should have. (Did I mention that I never thought a combine fire would happen to me?) As a small crop farmer, this fire was a real game changer! The price of grain at that time was below breakeven prices, so I took a little time during the winter months to examine my options. The commodity markets weren’t improving, but another opportunity presented itself.

Because I literally have a lifetime of experience raising pigs and I even ran my own construction company for 15 years due to the 1980s Farm Crisis, I was approached by a pork company to inspect buildings their contract growers are using to raise hogs. I analyze what’s wrong or what can be improved with the building. Then I hire crews to do the work and help round up parts needed to make the repairs. Then I go back and check on the work in progress. I also make sure the work that gets done actually made the buildings better. It makes for many trips, many showers and many booties!

This job has me on the go! I log about 1,000 miles weekly, traveling many back roads in Iowa and Minnesota. I’m now in a position where I can literally improve the care of hundreds of thousands of pigs by making sure these barns are improved. I find myself creating spreadsheets and using more than my allotted share of band width while filing reports from remote locations.

Spending hours daily on a tablet, smartphone and laptop has been different! I’m used to using my “smart technology” to stay in touch with my friends across the world through Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. Now I find myself using business and office programs during the work day, but the challenge has been fun. Learning the paperwork flow has been my biggest challenge. Work orders, purchase orders and parts numbers can be mind-numbing for an old pig farmer!

Bio-security is an important part of the job, too. I’m always putting on the little blue booties like are used in operating rooms. I spray cans of disinfectant and take several showers daily. All of that has taken some getting used to, as well. The biggest adjustment has been not doing my daily chores. I miss my pigs, and I miss taking pictures of cute pigs.

Maybe I’ll look for opportunities to take selfies with some new equipment or a presidential candidate! It appears everyone in the race for president has been enjoying pork chops on a stick this week as they tour the 2015 Iowa State Fair.

Speaking of presidential candidates, it’s been suggested that I throw my cap into the arena! Thanks to comments made on Facebook, I know I’d have at least two votes. All the rest of those running would have to share the leftovers. Ha! 🙂 Seriously though, whom we elect makes a difference. Now is the time to find out how candidates stand on issues of importance to you. I know I’ll be checking on their records related to issues important to me like food labeling, dietary guidelines and eminent domain.

You can bet that I’ll be contacting elected officials to let them know how their proposed laws and rules will impact agriculture. Although I’m not raising my own pigs right now, pork production facilities are still very much a part of who I am and what I do. I also still grow corn and soybeans, plus I’m still a Latham® Hi-Tech Seeds dealer. Not only is agriculture important to my livelihood, it’s important to our state and federal economy. That’s why I’ll continue to advocate to preserve choice and to promote common sense. I invite you to join me… Make your voice heard!