As Mother Nature leisurely rolls up the blanket of winter and teases us with the promise of warmer weather, many who are nestled in the bosom of this great nation have but two thoughts on their minds—mounting their tractors to traverse their fields in preparation of planting season and wrapping their lips around a smoky, fire-kissed slab of meaty deliciousness. Naturally, one could argue the case for either pork or beef but no matter how you slice it, one can’t really go wrong when the smokers and fire pits reemerge from the wintery slumber ready to cook up some flesh with copious exuberance.
The pork producers associations scattered across the Midwest are known for zigzagging across their own state and at times even neighboring ones to serve up not only some ribs and chops but consumer education and community involvement, as well.
In Missouri, you might see a blue behemoth of a trailer serving up pork at various big events across the state. Or, on a smaller scale, local groups like the Audrain County Pork Producers pull out the trailer and fire up the smokers to cater local events, charities and keep close ties with the community around them. One can’t mention Missouri pork without a nod to The Pork Place, which serves up mouthwatering ribs, loins, burgers and more every year during the Missouri State Fair.
Naturally, no one can talk about pork without mentioning Iowa. The World Pork Expo offers an extravaganza of tents and smokers serving every variety and cut of pork you could possibly imagine. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until June to dive into some lean meat. Iowa also has the Iowa Tenderloin Trail, a list of 14 of the best tenderloins the state has to offer. The trail spans the state but it’s one road trip worth every mile.
It’s not just food that can bring consumers and farmers together in a meaningful way. (What’s the saying? “If you cook pork, they will come,” it’s something like that.) Pork associations are also utilizing educational tools and producer involvement to increase consumer knowledge regarding the pork industry and promote the product they are so proud to grow.
Minnesota Pork Board, for example, has the Minnesota Pork Trailer. This is a 14-foot trailer with a big screen TV, interactive displays and it makes an impressive impression on consumers and farmers alike. They also have Oink Outings, which is just as adorable and heartwarming as it sounds. Volunteers set up shop at farmers markets, zoos and other events around the state to promote pork and ultimately connect consumers and farmers.
These states are certainly not alone in their efforts to educate and feed the masses. Nebraska offers the Ag Sack Lunch Program that provides 4th graders with a sack lunch filled with Nebraska grown foods and an opportunity to learn more about agriculture in their state and in general.
But what do all these events have in common?
Sure, they promote ag and more specifically the pork industry. They also promote community involvement and consumer education. Beyond good PR, they have something else in common, something more important.
They all need you.
As a pork producer, the pork industry is your industry. When consumers don’t understand what you do or how that pork got on their fork, you can step help them understand. When special interest groups want to regulate your industry through new legislation that could potential harm your business, you need to speak up and be part of that conversation. If your local community doesn’t like or understand how you farm, talk to them, serve them a pork burger at a local event, and address their concerns. You might wind up agreeing to disagree but at least you have a mutual understanding, where before it was speculation.
So the real question is how are you involved? Do you volunteer your time to these events? Do you donate money to support special causes that support your industry?
If not, it’s never too late to join the conversation and support the organizations that support you. Every state has a pork producers association. Contact your state’s pork association and find out how you can get involved and support your industry.
The opinions in this commentary are those of Jo Windmann, a Missouri pork producer.