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A Grateful Mom on National Pig Day

It’s cold, windy and rather dreary in central Illinois today. But when I looked at the calendar, I had to smile despite my not-so-inspiring surroundings. It’s National Pig Day. Plus, it’s not even noon and I’m simply overwhelmed by gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the pork industry. Here’s why. 

6:30 a.m.:
When I grabbed my phone, I was greeted by photos of our son caring for a sow in his FFA veterinary technology class at Unity High School. I couldn’t help but be grateful for FFA adviser Rich McCabe who sees the value in kids gaining practical, hands-on experience working with livestock. Plus, he took the time to take a photo and send it to me because he knows I’m a “memory capturer.” 

To say our 15-year-old son was excited to go to first hour today to check on the sow and piglets is an understatement. We haven’t had the opportunity to raise our own pigs yet, but I know that is something he would like to do some day. Although he has a lot of practice caring for pigs, he’s never worked with sows and piglets before. You just never know where an experience like this will lead.

7 a.m.:
I was a bit nervous to approach my driven, should-be-sleepy-but-must-have-been-caffeinated, 17-year-old daughter finishing up some scholarship applications this morning. However, she was all smiles to get them off her plate and out the door. I find it a little ironic that all her applications due on National Pig Day stem back to the swine industry.

As I read over her essays, I couldn’t help but wonder what her life would be like without the swine industry and the amazing people who have made such an impact on it. No, we aren’t big pork producers, and some might argue that raising up showpigs doesn’t matter much in the big scheme of things. But I disagree. I know it has made all the difference in my children’s lives and I speak for many families just like ours.

Direction, responsibility, empathy, passion and determination to make a difference are just a few of the ways her pig projects have helped her define who she is and where she wants to go in life. As a high school senior, the vast opportunities before her can be overwhelming at times. She can see herself taking many paths, but all the paths involve agriculture, and she hopes, the swine industry. 

9 a.m.:
I called up Missouri pork producer Jesse Heimer to visit briefly about a story idea. My career in the pork industry started in 2000 when I went to work for the National Swine Registry with a mission to develop the National Junior Swine Association from an idea into reality. Heimer became the first president of the National Junior Swine Association when it formed, and our paths have continued to intersect since. I appreciate being able to watch his career evolve in the swine industry from a handful of Hampshire sows when he was a kid. He’s a bridge builder, a path clearer and a deep thinker. We need people like Heimer who are always looking ahead and speaking up for youth, agriculture and the pork industry.

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