As I rolled up on the outskirts of Des Moines last night, I felt a familiar flutter to my stomach. You know that feeling, right? Anticipation, excitement and memories all flooded my mind as I finished my drive.
Des Moines is full of some of my most treasured memories. From my first blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair to convoys to the World Pork Expo with our show pigs and friends, to walking the trade show at the Iowa Pork Congress, I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t view Des Moines as the No. 1 spot to spend their vacation days!
One of my most memorable Iowa Pork Congress experiences took place a long time ago in 1997 when I ran for the title of Iowa Pork Queen, representing Washington County. Some of the specific details are a little fuzzy now, but what I remember most were the kind and generous people that I had the opportunity to interact with before and during that competition.
I did not grow up on a major pork operation, but I had a passion for the industry. Pork producers from my county, Char Brenneman and Tammy Vittetoe, graciously coached me and helped prepare me for the competition. They drilled me on pork facts, crisis scenarios, etiquette and more. And most importantly, they helped me grow more confident in my opportunity to make a difference.
I went off to college that fall, where I spent countless hours preparing a speech on Symbol II and what this ideal market hog of the time represented to the pork industry. I will never forget that my college livestock judging coach, Dan Hoge, made me practice my speech nearly every day to some audience or another. (I still feel bad that my teammates and any prospective student who visited the college with an interest in livestock judging had to listen to me over and over again.)
Fast forward to the Iowa Pork Queen Contest. The speech and interview went well and I made many new friends. Although I didn’t bring home the Iowa Pork Queen title, I was fortunate to win Miss Congeniality.
And, that opened up the year ahead for competing on the livestock judging team. Dan Hoge continued to fuel my passion for the swine industry and encouraged me to pursue an internship with the National Swine Registry. And as I’ve shared before, that internship led to my first job in the pork industry.
I’m not sure if those three realize what a big impact they had on my life and how each of their roles helped me find my current place in the swine industry. Reminiscing on their influence reminds me of the power of the time we spend with others. How when we invest a bit of ourselves in order to encourage and build up someone else, not only do we impact their lives, but our lives are changed, too. One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Today, go use your skills and unique personality to sharpen someone else. Invest in building others up.