Nearly 250 kids, parents and industry professionals gathered at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Livestock Center for the first-ever Illinois Pork Youth Day for a day of hands-on activities, seminars and a swine skillathon contest designed to educate and inform youth about the pork industry.
Bailey Bunting, a 9-year-old from Gibson City, Ill., said she attended Illinois Pork Youth day to learn more about showing pigs and how to take care of them. Her family doesn’t raise commercial pigs. Because of this, events like this help Bunting better know how to share the story of pig production to her friends and classmates back home who don’t know a lot about where their food comes from, she said.
For 17-year-old Emma Kuhns of Altamont, Ill., her reasons for attending were quite different.
“I grew up on a commercial pig farm with a deep understanding of where my food comes from,” Kuhns said. “I haven’t grown up knowing a lot about the show industry, however, and I want to better understand it. I view this event as an opportunity to connect both sides of the swine industry under the framework of Illinois Pork Producers. I believe by working together we can do a lot better job promoting the pork industry in its totality.”
The Illinois Pork Youth Day was created by the youth and education committee of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) consisting of board members, industry representatives and volunteers.
“Conversations around lack of labor in the livestock industry, plentiful jobs and an abundance of youth interested in swine, sparked the idea to build a one-day event,” said Jenny Jackson, IPPA Director of Communications.
On one side of the Livestock Center, participants competed in a skillathon. This event consisted of 10 stations, each of which offered a worksheet that students completed and turned in for a grade. Topics included breed identification, meat cut identification, reading feed labels and understanding vaccinations. At the end of the event, the top three students in each age division were awarded prizes.
1st – Sarina Voegel of Sullivan, Ill.
2nd – Ravayah Eitenmiller of Tremont, Ill.
3rd – Dennis Rottman of Pierron, Ill.
1st – Ellie Ferretti of Princeville, Ill.
2nd – Annie Johnson of Cambridge, Ill.
3rd – Lauren Mohr of Carlock, Ill.
On the other side of the livestock center, families enjoyed presentations on various industry topics. Speakers included Ty Engnell of Lindner Show Feeds on animal nutrition; Brian Arnold, Terry Moeller and Luke Wall of Zoetis on animal health; Todd Rodibaugh of National Pork Board on pork industry 101; and a career panel including Ashley Kauffman of ShowBloom, Dr. Wesley Lyons, DVM of Pipestone Veterinary Services, Heath Harper of the University of Illinois and Rodibaugh.
“The benefit of activities like this are widespread,” said Brian Arnold, pork medicated feed additive specialist for Zoetis. “Exposing young people who more than likely wouldn’t have that exposure to the broader pork industry is the biggest benefit from my perspective. There’s no doubt more and more kids are growing up in situations where they are not involved in production agriculture. As a result, their first exposure to the pork industry is often through the show ring.”
IPPA offers resources to link kids to further education and help match them up with jobs in the pork industry, Jackson said.
“As an organization in the agriculture industry, we know the value of family,” she added. “It was important to us to create an event that was family friendly and focused on the kids. We know there is a wealth of interest in swine on a younger level here in Illinois and we are working harder to capture that interest and retain them in our industry. It is my personal goal, in this role, to better connect with the youth we have at our fingertips and give them the tools they need to succeed.”
Brian Arnold shares why events like Illinois Pork Youth Day are so valuable to the pork industry.
Highlights from the 2019 Illinois Pork Expo