Meet Emma: A Pig Farmer of Tomorrow

Emma Lasco grew up in an urban area and became connected to agriculture through her family. She found her love for the swine industry while attending Iowa State University (ISU) where she studied animal science.

Interviewer : Tell me about yourself — what’s your background in the agricultural industry?

Emma: During my education at ISU, I did various internships and took on different jobs within the pork industry. This included experience in sow farms and finishing barns, along with preforming research trials from piglet immune systems and studying nutrition in finisher pigs.

Interviewer : Tell me a little bit about your farm:

Emma: I work for Smithfield Foods Hog Production in north-central Iowa. I work with roughly 30 contract farmers who grow pigs with Smithfield. Contract growing means that the farmers own the barns and Smithfield owns the pigs. I visit all my farms and contract farmers multiple times each month to make sure the pigs are healthy and getting the attention and care they need. I check that they have ample supply of feed and water, that the ventilation is good, and that all of the equipment is functioning. I get the opportunity to create relationships between all of our farmers and Smithfield. We get to share industry knowledge and I learn something new every day. It is a very rewarding career and I am reminded of that daily while out in the field.

Interviewer : What is the biggest challenge you face as a pig farmer?

Emma: The consumer opinion is something that is beginning to play a strong role in how we raise pigs. There are always a lot of questions surrounding the ways in which we perform certain tasks. As a pig farmer, I have come to learn that the only way to get through these barriers is to have a conversation, share the facts, answer questions, and get consumers on a farm to let them walk a day in our boots.

Making sure consumers hear our farming story correctly is not an easy undertaking because farmers only make up less than 2 percent of the population. However, I think communication with consumers is invaluable and we need to take that opportunity whenever we can get it. By telling them what pig farming really looks like and explaining why we do what we do on our farm, there is a better chance to tell them the story about the pork they are purchasing from the grocery store.

Interviewer : Why do you enjoy raising pigs?

Emma: Knowing that I can be a part of getting a healthy and safe product to families all over the world gives me the drive to wake up at dawn and give the proper care to our world’s food source. I take pride in knowing that when my family sits down to eat breakfast that their bacon was made with great care and purpose. That a family struggling to make ends meet can find a safe, reliable, and affordable protein product to feed their children. My passion for pig farming derives from the ultimate goal for all farmers: to do what you love.

I found a home in this pig farming community because I found people who I can relate to. These are people who are hardworking and passionate enough to care for livestock and all of the demands that come with it. I enjoy raising pigs because I am surrounded by driven people who are just as committed as I am to this ever-changing industry.

Interviewer : What are your goals for the future?

Emma: My future goals are to continue to pursue a career in the pork industry. I want to take my experiences and use it as a tool to better the swine industry. Whether that is through outreach and consumer education or working with pig farmers like I do now. I want people to realize all the responsibility and work that goes into providing a safe and healthy product and how much care each farmer has for their livestock. This is not a job for us, it’s a lifestyle.

Interviewer : In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing about being in the pork industry?

Emma: I love that there is nothing monotonous about the pork industry. There is always something to learn, for instance: constant changes in technology, advances in disease prevention, international trade, and a dedicated workforce. This industry works hard to improve itself every day. We want to give the consumer a safe and wholesome product while educating them on where their food comes from. It also gives me the chance to meet so many influential peers who work in the same industry and are striving for the same goals.

I have been granted many amazing opportunities through my experiences in the pork industry and have been fortunate enough to find my passion along the way. I can only hope to continue showing how dedicated I am to raising pigs through this platform.

Source: RPF