Looking Back with Leon

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A Retrospective Assessment of U.S. Pork Production: 1960 to 2015, or “The Look Back” as it’s often called among pig farmers and communicators, has been a hot topic lately. Since its release earlier this year, we’ve been excited to share the good news. Of course, for many pig farmers, its findings really weren’t much of a surprise.

Leon Sheets, former America’s Pig Farmer of the Year from Ionia, Iowa, says the competitive nature of farmers coupled with advancing technology has helped him and his peers continually improve and do more with less each year.

“Some people might call it ‘being green’ or ‘being sustainable,’ but in agriculture and farming, it’s just what we’ve always done. It’s what our dads and granddads taught us,” Leon says. “We’ve been doing that for generations. We’re always looking at how to do it a little better, to get a little more from less.”

He says modern measurement techniques have helped tremendously. Today’s farmers don’t over-plant, over-fertilize or over-feed, all helping them to take better care of the land, water, air and, of course, pigs.

“I’ve always thought we’ve been getting better every year, and the 55-year look back proves that,” Leon says. “It shows we’ve been ahead in this ballgame, constantly improving, and doing it even before people started talking about environmental sustainability. It was just about doing what was right.”

Leon says it’s important to not grow complacent just because we’re doing well, though. Farmers must continue to strive for improvement when it comes to environmental sustainability.

“We’ve got to do the very best we can,” he says. “Because we’re not going to grow any more land or make any more water.”

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