Q&A Series: Youth Voice How to Attract Future Leaders

( Farm Journal's PORK )

No one could have predicted the way COVID-19 would change our world in 2020. As the industry adapts and moves forward, Farm Journal’s PORK asked five youth pig enthusiasts to share how the pork industry can continue to attract future leaders. They also weigh in on their role models in the pork industry.

Ashtin Guyer, 19 
Robinson, Ill.

I plan to continue my education as a sophomore in the fall at Lake Land College and transfer to a four-year college in the near future. After college, I want to continue to grow and show others in this industry what it’s like to be a leader. I want to be there alongside all those juniors in their career journeys just like so many did for me.

Q. What should the pork industry do to attract future leaders? 
A.
I think that the pork industry should have more local clinics to attract future leaders. Currently, there are many different ways to engage youngsters when at the major shows through clinics and seminars, but you do not always hear about clinics or seminars in different counties. Those kids who have the ability to be great leaders just need a little push, and may not be able to get to a major show or conference to learn about the industry that they love. To fix this, I think hosting more pork industry clinics on a county level will help attract future leaders. 

Q. Who’s your role model in the pork industry and why?
A.
My biggest role model in the pork industry is Jesse Heimer, a pig farmer from Missouri. Jesse has taught me what it means to be leader and an even better role model myself in such a huge industry. He has the biggest heart you have ever seen and would give the shirt off his back for anyone. He is truly an icon to me in this industry. He always greets me with a smile and a hug every time I come out of the ring, no matter the outcome. I am blessed to be able to call him my biggest role model in the pork industry.



Ashley Kahler, 19
Cambridge, Iowa

I am currently a student at Iowa State University where I will be a sophomore this fall studying animal science. Although I am not quite sure yet what area of the industry I would like to focus on, I would like to find a job in marketing and communications for a swine company upon graduating. 

Q. What should the pork industry do to attract future leaders? 
A.
I think the biggest thing for the pork industry to attract future leaders is to simply reach out the younger generations. We look up to the generations above us as mentors and a simple face-to-face conversation can really catch our attention and spark more of an interest in the swine industry. With the technologies in our world constantly developing and changing I think that is very intriguing to the future generation to see how this industry will continue to grow and how we can plan a role in improving the industry. As a young swine enthusiast, I think the opportunities in this industry are endless and that really excites me for the years to come. 

Q. Who’s your role model in the pork industry and why?
A.
My biggest role model in the pork industry would be Dan Harmsen. Dan took me under his wing and mentored me in the show ring and is always there pushing me to reach my goals, but he has taught me so much more about the swine industry than just in the show ring. He is always willing to have me to help with the production side of the operation and has really taught me so much more about the process of breeding and raising hogs. From breeding sows, to helping farrow, giving vaccines, and weaning, Dan has taken the time to show me one-on-one these processes and is always there to answer any questions I have and helps me broaden my knowledge as I begin to plan a career in the swine industry. 

Ty Kim, 20
Hartwell, Ga.

I plan on attending Kansas State University this fall to major in animal science while also competing on the livestock judging team. After that, I plan on going to graduate school to study swine nutrition. Eventually I would like to either work for a show feed company or do research in swine nutrition. I also hope to raise show pigs in the future.

Q. What should the pork industry do to attract future leaders? 
A.
I think the pork industry can use a variety of things to attract future leaders. One thing I believe would be beneficial is informing youth of the opportunities available in the pork industry. This could be done at shows/leadership conferences where members of junior associations are present. Another way to attract future leaders is through continued support of youth events, shows and contests as well as offering scholarship opportunities to those interested in the pork industry. Finally, I think more internships and hands-on experiences would allow for youth to get a feel for things and develop a passion for the swine industry.

Q. Who’s your role model in the pork industry and why?
A.
There are many people in the pork industry that have had a positive impact on me. One of my biggest role models is my grandfather, Johnny Wilson. Growing up on his commercial hog farm is what initially sparked my interest in the pork industry. He taught me hard work and a lot of other things involved in swine production. He also started my passion for show pigs when he got my first projects from lifelong friend, Andy Royal. A few other folks that have been role models by not only teaching me about the pork industry, but also setting an example for how to be a good person are Garry Childs, Kane Austin and Family, and Pat Arkfeld and Family.

Cole Moeller, 20 
West Point, Iowa

My future plan is to finish my education and then pursue a career in the pork industry. I have a passion for the production side of the business and hope to be a highly qualified candidate to the commercial industry. I hope to then have a influence on the next generation just as my role models have had on me.

Q. What should the pork industry do to attract future leaders? 
A.
The pork industry has a very big opportunity to attract and groom future leaders. It provides young leaders with not only job experience roles but also conducting conferences where leaders of the future can be introduced to leadership teams of commercial systems. This can create relationships that they can build off of and create some sort of a mentorship program. This would allow students to have early networking communities that would be crucial for future career opportunities.

Q. Who’s your role model in the pork industry and why?
A.
I hate to break it down to just one role model in the industry because I think there are many that need recognition for wanting me to succeed after I graduate with my bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. Currently I am working as a summer intern for The Maschhoffs in a large sow farm in southeast Iowa. The production managers are currently role models in my life as they are giving me the opportunity to gain hands on experience in a commercial sow farm setting and allowing me to understand both the  animal Husbandry and financial side of the business. While attending Black Hawk East, I worked part time for the Rash Family on their small purebred/showpig operation. Andy Rash was very influential in my junior college years to help me stay focused on my academic success. His career path in the commercial swine industry has made me believe that there are many opportunities for me to succeed in the industry. 

Michael Sleik, 17
Oshkosh, Wis. 

I’ll be a senior in high school this fall. I plan to work in custom harvesting somewhere in the U.S. I’m passionate about agriculture and want to find a career somewhere in agriculture someday. 

Q. What should the pork industry do to attract future leaders? 
A.
I encourage people to learn more about these national youth shows where you can find young kids who are interested in the industry together under one roof and see where that leads them. I have learned so much at the youth leadership conferences about the commercial pork industry. I’ve grown up on a commercial dairy and as I’ve learned more about the commercial pork industry, I’ve seen how closely it’s tied to what I do every day on our dairy farm and with our showpigs. Kids who show pigs have a passion for the pork industry and trying to promote pork. I think any opportunity to invest in that group could result in future pork industry leaders and workforce.

Q. Who’s your role model in the pork industry and why?
A.
Ron Smith at WinMor Farms is an important role model in my life. He introduced me to showing livestock and helped me get involved in the pork industry. He took me to my first national show, too. I’ve spent a lot of time working with him at his farm in Iowa. He’s taught me that no matter what you are doing, someone is always watching. You have to do the right thing – you never know when someone is paying attention to you. 

We know that nothing can replace World Pork Expo, but we will be uniting together June 1-6 for PORK Week across all of our Farm Journal platforms to elevate the important role the pork industry plays in feeding the world. Share your stories and post photos on social media using #PORKWeek to help us honor the pork industry. From “AgDay TV” to “AgriTalk” to “U.S. Farm Report” to PorkBusiness.com and everything in between, tune in and join us as we acknowledge the most noble profession there is: feeding people.

More from PORK Week:

Q&A Series: Economists Weigh in on Pork Outlook

Q&A Series: Swine Vets Speak Out About the Impact of COVID-19

Q&A Series: Pork Industry Leaders Explore Ripple Effects of COVID-19

Q&A Series: Pig Farmers Open Up About the Future

 
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