IPPA Honors Iowa’s Master Pork Producers

Iowa’s Master Pork Producers for 2023 were announced Wednesday night at the Iowa Pork Congress banquet in Des Moines. A Master Pork Producer award denotes an individual’s or family’s excellence in pork production, as measured by pork production statistics, dedication to We Care® principles, and contributions to their community.

The We Care principles outline a pig farmer’s responsibilities to uphold high standards for animal well-being, food safety, and the environment. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and Iowa State University Extension co-sponsor the Master Pork Producers program.

IPPA’s 82nd class of Master Pork Producers are:

IPPA started the Master Pork Producer Award program in 1942 and has now named 1,516 Iowa pig farming businesses as Master Pork Producers.

“Being recognized as a Master Pork Producer or receiving another Master Pork Award is a crowning achievement for anyone involved in Iowa’s pork industry,” said IPPA Producer Outreach Director Cory Van Gilst. “Formally recognizing the best our industry can offer is a rich tradition that has lasted over 80 years.”

The 2023 Honorary Master Pork Producers are:

  • Jeff Kaisand, who is at the forefront of ensuring animal welfare and health across Iowa through his job as state veterinarian, working within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).
  • Ken Stalder receives this award posthumously. He was an animal science professor at Iowa State University who dedicated many years to improving the lives of pigs and the lives of people working with animals. Stalder passed away in 2022.
  • Max Rothschild, a world-renowned genetics leader who spent four decades conducting research on the international level at Iowa State University. Rothschild retired in 2020 and continues to volunteer in the Ames community.

Dennis and Lori Heemstra of Primghar received the Iowa Environmental Steward Award. The Heemstras own a 3,300-head wean-to-finish site in O’Brien County. Caring for their land is their top priority. They work with an agronomist to implement various practices, including reduced tillage to limit soil disturbance. The Heemstras were named Master Pork Producers in 2014.

Ernie Barnes of Adel received the Master Seedstock Producer Award, which is handled by the Iowa Purebred Swine Council. Barnes has enjoyed a lengthy career working for pork associations, including the National Swine Registration, the National Pork Producers Council and National Pork Board. He retired from the Pork Board in 2023 but continues to serve as the Iowa State Fair’s Swine Barn superintendent.

IPPA created the Master Pork Partner Award in 2014 to recognize outstanding production partners who have made positive impacts in Iowa pork production, even though they do not maintain active daily roles at a specific production site.

Jim Hitchler of Le Mars was named Master Pork Partner. He delivers feed for pork producers as a driver for Gengler Feed Service in Remsen.

The Master Pork Awards Program Selection Committee is made up of staff from the ISU Extension Service, the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State, and the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Award winners represent the diversity of Iowa’s pig farms and the people who support pork producers. They are nominated by their peers and neighbors.

Nominations for the 2024 Master Pork Program awards will open in May.