Local News: Locals chosen for pork leadership roles (5/6/22)

PLYMOUTH CO., LTD. — Two Plymouth County men are among 11 people from around the state who work in the pork industry chosen for the 2022 Iowa Pork Leadership Academy (IPLA).

IPLA develops leadership skills and is organized by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA).

Colin Schroeder of Le Mars and Trevor Harson of Hinton applied and were selected for the academy. Those selected to participate in IPLA have indicated an interest in becoming future leaders in the pork industry at the local, state, and national levels. They may also use their new leadership skills in their local communities.

Schroeder said he applied for the academy with the hope of meeting other young individuals in the pork industry.

“I enjoy getting to meet new people and discovering how different people may do similar things I do in a different way,” he said.

Harson said he saw the academy as a chance to expand his exposure to the pork industry.

“I have experience in production, construction, contracting, service/maintenance, but I didn’t have a solid background or experience on legislative pork policy,” he said.

Wealth of Experience

The two bring a wealth of experience in the pork industry.

Schroeder was born and raised on a hog farm southeast of Le Mars.

“I am a part of our wean to finish operation in many ways: from receiving baby piglets, treating sick animals, sorting/loading market animals, and scheduling trucks to move pigs to their next destination,” Schroeder said. “We are unique in today’s pork production landscape as we still raise our own pigs, whereas the industry has become very vertically integrated over the last 10-plus years. What I mean by this is that packers (th who purchase our animals) own or control the entire supply chain from the sow farms all the way until that animal is present. This has made it very difficult for small pork producers to survive due to unfair market conditions.”

Harson has been a member of the pork industry since 2011, and has filled a variety of roles throughout that time.

“I began working for a company in northwest Iowa on the production side as a Grow-Finish Herdsman, meaning I was responsible for the day to day care of the animals. I then transitioned to another position within this same company as a Work Order Manager, and in this role I coordinated the scheduling for service/maintenance calls for internal and external customers with livestock facilities,” Harson explained. “Again, I was able to transition to a new position within this company as the Drafter/Estimator. Filling this role, I was responsible for laying out the footprint of livestock facilities used for cooling. I was also responsible for drafting the contracts that detailed out the scope of work on remodel and new construction parts.”

In a press release, Cory Van Gilst, IPPA’s director of producer outreach, noted, “These participants want to contribute to a better future for Iowa’s pig farmers. The people in our IPLA group get to build relationships with others in the industry, identify their unique leadership strengths and skills, and receive an overall understanding of the Iowa pork industry,” Van Gilst said.

Expanding Their Knowledge

Schroeder indicated he wanted to be a part of the IPPA Leadership Academy to meet others while also polishing his leadership skills.

“I have always viewed myself as a leader, but I understand that leaders never stop learning. Being a recent college graduate, I have a lot to learn about life but pork production specifically. I was raised on a hog farm, learning from my dad throughout the years, but as policy, technology, and skills involved in pork production change, there are many techniques/ideas I hope to gain from this group to bring back to the family farm ,” Schroeder said.

Meanwhile Harson said he wanted to be a part of the academy to not only learn about facets of the swine industry that he doesn’t have a lot of experience with, but also to share what he has learned with others.

“Any opportunity that I have to learn and share that knowledge is rewarding for me. My education background is political science, so I saw this as a chance to gain more insight into what all goes into developing and advocating for policy,” said Harson. “Meeting new people to understand different perspectives on what we do in our industry was another motivator.”

The Right Skills Set

Schroeder describes himself as a very hard working and driven individual who does whatever it takes to get the job accomplished. He also considers himself to be a very organized individual who likes to have a plan in place and use those benchmarks to achieve long-term goals.

Harson also brings leadership skills to the table, which consists of the ability to share knowledge and experiences with those around him, time management, the ability to assume accountability and ownership, the ability to motivate others and the ability to communicate clearly.

“Our IPLA members learn about the work that the Pork Checkoff is doing for the industry as well as what is happening in the policy arena. We look at ways that each of them can be an advocate for the industry in any aspect of their lives,” Van Gilst said. “Additionally, they get the opportunity to work on their leadership and communication skills. They can take those skills home to their businesses, county organizations, and communities,” he said.

During the group’s first two meetings, they identified their leadership strengths, were coached on media communications, and learned about the work of IPPA, the National Pork Board, and the National Pork Producers Council. They also met with Iowa legislators and staff from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the governor’s office.

The group will take two educational trips later in 2022. During one, they will travel to Washington, DC to better understand the national legislative process and federal agencies. The second trip will be to South and North Carolina to learn about other commodities and the challenges those producers face.

Portraying the Best of the Pork Industry

Schroeder hopes to use these experiences to gain the knowledge to educate others on the importance pork production has on the state of Iowa’s economy.

“The state of Iowa raises more pigs than any other state and in fact Iowa raises nearly one-third of all the hogs grown in the United States. I want to make everyone aware that pork producers work every day to raise healthy pork for all consumers across the world,” he said.

“I want to become an advocating voice for pork producers across the state to help protect our livelihoods from those individuals that try to tear them apart by sharing false information to politicians or other government officials that put policies in place to make raising pork difficult,” Schroeder continued.

Harson, too, hopes to share everything he will learn and experience with everyone that he can.

“The swine industry is such a fun industry with great people and opportunities. It’s a dynamic industry and is constantly evolving,” he said.

“Living in Iowa, there are a lot of people that have connections to the pork industry, but there are those out there that don’t have that luxury either. Using the knowledge that I acquire, I hope to help people understand what a great industry I am proud to be a part of,” Harson said.

Other members of the 2022 IPLA group are: Audubon County – Yury Alexandra Espinosa, Audubon; Des Moines County – Haley Kerr, Oakville; Howard County – Hailey Waddell, Protivin; Johnson County – Matthew Rooda, Iowa City; Linn County – Matthew Ditch, Center Point; Polk County – Eleanor Korum, Des Moines, and Katie Tapper, Urbandale; and Story County – Jeb Gent, Ames, and Stacie Matchan, Gilbert.

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