If you don’t spend time around kids in the pork industry, you need to start. I was reminded again last weekend that we have a huge responsibility before us – to keep the pork industry thriving and growing so the next generation of swine enthusiasts have a place to fit in.
On Saturday, I attended Illinois Pork Youth Day and led a career session on agricultural communications. As pressures mount from people making decisions about agricultural practices who don’t have fundamental knowledge of livestock production, the ag communicator role is increasingly important.
It’s also one more way kids who love pigs can stay involved in the pork industry.
Isabel Pistorius, a 12-year-old pig farmer, said that’s one fact some people don’t realize about the pork industry. “You can have so many careers in the pig industry,” she says. “From a vet to a pig breeder to a journalist.”
The confidence and motivation I witnessed, starting with kids as young as 5 years old and remaining all the way up to seniors in high school, was encouraging. As I visited with kids and reminded them of the importance of their pig farming story, I was reminded of the importance of their passion.
I asked them if I could help share their stories – ranging from why they love raising pigs to why biosecurity matters to what it means to be a steward of the environment. Listening to them opened my eyes to areas we need to do better in from an educational standpoint and showed me areas where they really shined with knowledge and perspective.
If I haven’t convinced you to volunteer in your state to help youth who want to learn more about the pork industry, here are three reasons why we have to step up and help out.
1. Kids in the pork industry are “experts” on pork production to their friends, teachers and communities.
Young people who raise and show pigs are often a window to agriculture – not only to their friends, but also to their teachers and communities – because they are oftentimes more visible at county fairs and livestock shows. And that’s a big responsibility. Kids are hungry for information – and there are a lot of voices trying to get their attention out there. I still believe the best way to learn about pork production is to hear it directly from producers who day-in and day-out raise pigs to feed a hungry world. Invite kids in. Open the door to answer their questions.
2. Kids in the pork industry are in demand.
Kids who raise pigs know how to work. Everyone will want to snatch them up after college – don’t underestimate that. Kids who care for livestock understand that it takes time, energy and focus to raise animals. They make sacrifices to care for something bigger than themselves. I can’t tell you how many college admissions officers and employers have shared with me how much value they place on kids who have participated in 4-H or FFA and raised livestock. They are looking for kids who aren’t afraid to work.
3. Kids in the pork industry have a big platform.
The world is changing and how people receive information is changing, too. We all have access to an easy way to get our story out…fast. Social media is a game changer that our young people understand far better than many of us more advanced in our age do. For example, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden, gained international attention this year for her scathing criticism of world leaders and their inaction on the climate crisis in a series of Tweets.
At the end of the day, I left the event feeling reenergized about not only what they have to offer the pork industry, but also what I can offer – and you can offer – in our roles here today. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to invest in the next generation.
Check out this first in a series of videos of their stories and hear the enthusiasm in their words and their voices for yourself.
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