Leon Sheets, a pig farmer from Ionia, Iowa, is America’s Pig Farmer of the Year for the remainder of 2017-18 program year. The previous winner, Leslie McCuiston, stepped down after taking a new position in the agricultural industry, reports the National Pork Board. In her new role, she no longer works directly with pigs, which is an ongoing requirement for the role.
“With the unexpected change, the National Pork Board reached out to our America’s Pig Farmer of the year judging panel,” said Terry O’Neel, a pig farmer from Friend, Nebraska, and president of the National Pork Board, in a press release from NPB. “The panel unanimously voted to elevate Sheets, a finalist from last fall, with the move adopted and supported by all members of the National Pork Board.”
Sheets began farming with his grandfather when he was a young child, and raising pigs has been a life-long passion. He raises 33,000 pigs on his farm in northeast Iowa, where he focuses on animal care and environmental sustainability. With the help of his employees, son and wife, Sheets also grows corn, soybeans, hay and cover crops.
Sheets has served as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and has been featured in Farm Journal’s PORK (March 2016) for his advocacy surrounding farm safety. In 2014, he was badly burned while power-washing a hog barn. He suffered second- and third-degree burns over more than 20% of his body, and underwent a series of painful skin grafts.
Sheets has given many presentations and is a strong advocate for farm safety. In regard to accidents on the farm, he stressed, “I don’t want my staff to worry about it. I don’t want my kids to worry about it. I don’t what [other pig farmers] to have to worry about it.”
“Working with pigs has been a rewarding profession,” Sheets said in the press release. “Every morning I wake up to new challenges, along with knowing what to expect when I head to the barns.
Sheets loves sharing his passion for farming and experiences with others. For him, “Living on a farm is more of a lifestyle than simply a job.”
The annual award, sponsored by NPB, recognizes a pig farmer who excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and who connects with today’s consumers about how pork is produced. Sheets will serve in the role until a new America’s Pig Farmer of the Year is announced in October 2018.