(Christine is going to write a series of Industry blogs on Swineweb.com.) In her first blog she tells her story and her journey in the Pork Industry and how she is now a Gilt Selection Officer at Heimerl Farms)
At the age of 8 it happened. I met my first pig and I fell in love. My older cousin had a couple of Spotted gilts for her county fair and the Ohio State Fair. They were staying with us during the Ohio State Fair that year because we live so close to the fair grounds. I wanted to be with them at the fair every day; cleaning stalls, washing pigs and just getting to sit in the pen next to the pigs. Because of my obsession my aunt allowed me to show in the open show at the Ohio State fair! I even got sixth place in my show! It may not seem like an amazing accomplishment but to me it was first. After that I worked extremely hard to convince my parents to let me show market pigs at my own county fair. I was able to get two pigs at the age of 9 to show. I grew my passion through 10 years of 4-H including 4 years of FFA in High School.
I slowly built my love of pigs into a passion over that time through taking market pigs every year and chairing the pig barn committee for the junior fair board. I then went to The Ohio State University majoring in Animal Science with my focus on swine and dual minors in Agribusiness and Agricultural Communications. I was able to gain a great mentor at Ohio State with a lot of experience in the swine industry that helped me to cultivate my passion for pigs and help me turn it into a career. He taught me that everyday is not pretty and perfect as a pig farmer. You will be tired; covered in poop and sometimes question why you chose this career path. But at the end of day remind yourself that everything you did that day was in the interest of the animal’s health and welfare.
This has helped me get through the day more times than I would like to admit. Once I was finished with my four-year college degree I got a full-time job in Iowa with AMVC in their Leadership Development Program. A big move from Ohio to Iowa came with this choice but I was ready to jump right into the pork industry. Nine months into my career at AMVC I was promoted to an assistant manager on a 6,200 head sow barn focused on the farrowing side of the barn. This was one of the defining times of my career. Two days before I started the sow farm broke with PEDv. That meant that we were on clean up and I was just trying to learn everyone’s name. When we were able to get the virus under control on the farm, I along with my team were able to take that farm from 32 out of 32 into the top five farms with AMVC. I then got an amazing opportunity to be a sow farm manager on a startup 2,400 head gilt multiplication for PIC through AMVC.
This was another defining moment. It is one thing to clean up an already functioning farm but to start one from a hole in the ground was a completely different challenge. But also, an extremely fun one because there were no bad habits to break and I got to set up the farm exactly how I wanted it to be. After a year in Illinois on this sow farm I really wanted to be back home in Ohio. That leads me to where I am today, working in Ohio as a gilt selection officer and service team member for Heimerl Farms.
I work with twenty 2,400 head contract grower finishing barns. My day consists of marking gilts to go back to the sow farm and marketing the rest of barn to help feed the country. Through my time in this career I have also had many great opportunities outside of the barn as a pig farmer. I have been able to serve as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow through the National Pork Board and be a part of the Pork Leadership Institute through National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council.
I am excited to share my story as a Pig Farmer so far on various subjects that effect the pork industry, a few pork recipes and a few career and life developments as they happen!