Seminar 5 Recap
Leadership Program Fifth Seminar Visits Fairbury, Beatrice, Lincoln
By Hannah Zundel
The Pork Leadership Program participants ventured through Nebraska for a full two days during its fifth seminar November 12 and 13.
We started our tour in Fairbury. This small town of 3,700 people is home to two swine industry gems.
The first organization we visited was Livingston Enterprises, Inc. (LEI), run by Bruce Livingston and family. This is also where our fellow participant, Ryan Hynek, works as a sow farm manager. LEI was named 31 on the Pork Powerhouse list with 32,200 sows in 2018. They are an iso-wean farm that sells to major producers across the country, and are also leaders in sow and pig care. Bruce Livingston accredited their success to exceptional care from employees, attention to detail and genetics provided by DNA Genetics, the workplace of another fellow program participant, Brad Garrison. LEI is able to produce top-notch pigs with some farms having pigs per sow per year (PSY’s) of 35-37. We were able to speak with multiple employees from nutrition to billing to understand the complexity of running an operation of their stature. We also toured the LEI office and learned all about the visa program they utilize as a source of labor. They house over 53 trainee participants from all across the world. It was amazing to see so many cultures collectively have a passion for the swine industry, all in one town.
We then went down the street to Bacon Road, where we were greeted with the amazing aroma of bacon! There we began our tour of Westin Packaged Meats. This facility is the industry leader responsible for producing bacon bits, bacon-flavored bacon bits, salad toppers and related products. Ron Schacht hosted the tour of the facility where we learned about the process of producing our beloved bacon bits. We were shocked to learn that the process from the first piece of equipment to the final packaged product only took between 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The company has overcome tribulations such as a facility fire and need for labor to become an industry leader. You can find their products in many supermarkets such as Wal-Mart. I was impressed that they even had a label of bacon bits in a chain of stores on the East Coast. My family can even enjoy a slice of Bacon Road, Nebraska, back in Pennsylvania.
We then went hit the road to meet with the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. We spoke with the board of three, Gale Pohlman, Mark Schoenrock, and Michael Dux. Jefferson County is designated as a livestock friendly county. The commissioners collectively agreed that agriculture, especially the pork industry, has brought ample business opportunity and benefits to their communities. Since expansion in the Nebraska Pork Industry is a hot topic and very real expectation, we took a few minutes to discuss how that impacts the commissioners’ job. The commissioners play a major role in approving or denying the expansion of a pork producer in their area. The commissioners said that when producers are involved in the community tackling questions, comments and concerns prior to meetings, it makes their approvals much easier. We also discussed different opportunities to tell our story in communities like Fairbury. We have previously discussed in other seminars that telling our story is critically important. Now we have other possible unique avenues to do so.
Our last tour stop for the first day was the brand-new feedmill owned and operated by Livingston Enterprises. As we know, having control and excellent bio-security is extremely important for all pork producers. LEI decided to take the next step in bio-security by constructing this new mill. We toured the facility and got to see the new equipment in place to produce all the feed needed for their operation, with room to expand. We also were able to see some community farmers delivering corn to the facility.
We then concluded the day at Playa Azul in Beatrice, enjoying scrumptious chips and queso before heading to Lincoln for some rest. As we reflected on the day, we were blown away at the diversity in culture and benefits that pork has brought to a small town. It was clear that the pork industry has had a stupendous impact on Fairbury and surrounding communities. It was great to know we all played a key role in this industry, as well.
Our last day in was spent in Lincoln. We began the day with some breakfast filled with bacon and headed to Neogen GeneSeek. We toured their facility starting with the DNA portion of their operation. Their staff works diligently on the processes of genotyping of animals, plants and microbes. We then took a look how they were able to test for swine diseases and their upcoming plans for expansion. We were all excited to tour the facility since many of our participants use their services in one way or another. I was personally impressed at the speed and efficiency in which they were able to produce results for their
customers. We concluded the tour with a presentation on their business and future plans.
We then took off to Nebraska Pork Producers Association office where we met with Jennifer Osterholt. Jennifer is the author of social media accounts and the blog, “Plowing Through Life.” We discussed ideas and ways to connect to a consumer without being overbearing or off-putting. Jennifer does this by sharing recipes, thoughts and ideas through her social media account. We were challenged to provide a recipe and our story for her to share. We also were challenged to share a small part our swine industry story on some sort of social media platform.
Next we headed to the Career Academy, a joint venture between Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College. The academy strives to provide real world experiences and exceptional academics to high school juniors and seniors. They provide dual credit courses in 16 different career pathways. We were invited to be participants on a career panel for their agricultural class. We shared our professional lives and our paths to finding the jobs we now enjoy. We also took time to discuss important swine industry topics such as the “We CareSM ” program, genetics and environmental impacts.
To finish the day we stopped at the Food Bank of Lincoln. We took a tour of the operation while learning more about what they do in the forms of programs and services. A major takeaway for the group was that a single dollar can provide three meals to those who are food insecure. I used this knowledge to complete my social media challenge. “Hams Across America” is a swine industry initiative to provide donations of ham to food banks across the country around the holiday season. I took to social media to challenge friends and family to participate in this project. I also encouraged them to donate to their local food bank or the Food Bank of Lincoln.
This seminar was a great reminder of how expansive and impactful the pork industry is in Nebraska. It was also great representation of how Nebraska supports and impacts the pork industry nationally and worldwide.