Weld farmer reflects on first year with Colorado Pork Producers
February 21, 2017
When you go to a hog farm, one of the first things you do is sign in.
You have to check off if you've been to a hog farm recently or out of the country. Joyce Kelly, executive director of Colorado Pork Producers, didn't know that when she took her position in September 2015.
She didn't know much about the pork industry at all, even with her extensive background in agriculture.
Kelly and her husband, Steve, farm east of Greeley and grow sugar beets, wheat, corn and occasionally alfalfa on about 900 acres.
She's worked in water. She's worked in cattle. Now she's been with pork producers for more than a year, working and advocating for them and the interests of the industry.
When she became executive director, her first hurdle was a public relations issue involving a major swine disease. But she said her biggest challenge was simply learning more about the industry. She had to learn specific jargon. It was something she was able to pick up through talking with producers.
But far more important than the jargon, she needed to figure out the major concerns for pork producers.
One of the biggest problems the council faces is a lack of awareness. There are pork producers who don't know the council exists or what the benefits can be — especially in Weld County, an area known for its agriculture. But Weld is an area dominated by beef, produce, corn and wheat.
Kelly started a quarterly newsletter that gives producers the latest news affecting the industry, along with producer-to-producer content. This can cover a number of topics, but producers in the council will write articles about topics that might help other producers, such as how to market pigs.
That's a topic Chad Franke recently wrote about for the newsletter.
Franke is a Roggen pig farmer and said getting the word out was important.
Franke is active with the council and in agriculture — he's the new treasurer for Colorado Pork Producers and is vice president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. But his involvement in pork was fairly new, too. He was asked by the previous executive director to join the council.
Although he's been on the council for only a couple years, he sees some of the small but helpful ways more information has gotten out compared with before. Kelly's newsletter is only one piece of it.
Kelly doesn't see the industry the same way as people who were raised in pork. But she knows agriculture and she knows it well. So having a new perspective on the pork industry is a strength, according to Franke — especially when the council wants to appeal to producers not active in the council.
"That brought something kind of neat that she could see things differently," Franke said, adding that can help express problems and solutions to other producers in a new way.
When Kelly stepped into her role, pork producers were recovering from the most recent disease to hit the pork industry — the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea — and the past year has been about recovery, education and expansion.
Kelly said producers needed to move past the disease. It was a problem for Colorado in particular, since the state's producers raise the pigs and they are commercially slaughtered out of state. The younger the pig, the easier it is for the pig to catch a disease.
Even though the industry already was in the rebound when Kelly jumped in, she recognized the challenges future diseases and biohazards could have on the industry.
Since she never had to deal with disease in pigs, she needed to find a different way to help her producers.
Kelly now is working with the national council to organize an emergency training event in October. The event is made to bring producers and others, including government officials, together to deal with the next disease or biohazard that could affect pork. That way they at least have a way to be ready and knowledgeable.
Since Kelly doesn't raise her own hogs, the training is a way she can learn to properly react. It also gives her a chance to get others involved outside of the industry. They'll be educated in how to deal with a potential problem and understand the pork industry more.
In a way, it's similar to how she needed to learn about the industry as a whole.