For decades, Indiana farmer Keith Schoettmer has brought home the bacon – literally. He and his wife have raised pigs on their family farm since 1987 and have steadily grown the operation to its current size of 22,000 pigs annually. Now, Schoettmer is bringing home top honors after being named the first-ever America’s Pig Farmer of the Year by the National Pork Board.
“We are pleased to have Keith represent America's pig farmers, and we look forward to the dialog he will create as he travels around the country," says Derrick Sleezer, National Pork Board president and pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “It's important that we connect with today's consumers about how we raise their food in an ethical and transparent way. Keith's interest in sharing his farm's story – and putting a face on today's pig farming – will help us reach this goal.”
Schoettmer says he’s honored to have been selected, but credits others in his operation for sharing in the hard work and successes.
“I couldn’t do what I do without the help of family and employees, so this award signifies a collective recognition of what we do every day on the farm to care for our pigs, our people and the planet.”
The award’s grueling process included a third-party audit of farm practices and multiple written and oral interviews by various subject-matter experts. Four finalists were selected and endured another round of interviews by a panel of expert judges.
“Today, more than ever, it is important not only to point out where progress is needed, but to recognize when we get it right,” says Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American humane Association and one of the judges. “The farmers I met with are working to give America’s families food that is safe, affordable, abundant and in line with their values.”
Schoettmer says employee training and community involvement are paramount to his operation. He offers employee training and educational resources, and offers several internships each year. He also encourages farm tours and welcomes visitors.
“We open our doors regularly to the public, with biosecurity always in mind, of course,” he says. “Consumers need to know that pig farmers are the ultimate animal welfare professionals.”
To learn more about Schoetter’s operation, visit www.porkcares.com.