The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) was honored as the 2021 Corporate Partner during the Iowa 4-H Legacy Awards gala last month.
The sixth-annual event, held virtually this year, celebrates Iowa 4-H and recognizes those who have made a significant impact on the program.
For decades, IPPA has supported leadership opportunities provided by 4-H, and recently invested in the development of the Iowa 4-H online platform Animal U—to better educate youth about the entire livestock industry process.
Bethany Gorsch, Iowa 4-H Foundation board trustee, said IPPA represents “commitment to their community, and a dedication to making the best better,” a reference to the 4-H motto.
As part of the program, Mike Paustian, Walcott, and Trent Thiele, Elma, were featured in a video talking about the importance of 4-H to youth and communities. Something both have seen in their own families.
“It’s been a big priority of the Iowa Pork Producers to put a lot of resources into youth development, and 4-H is a natural partner,” said Paustian, who participated in 4-H through high school. “So many times I’m running through my head [the four Hs that make up 4-H]: head, heart, hands, health. Those things are all applicable no matter what you’re doing.”
He added: “4-H is a great bridge to those urban kids to maybe open their eyes a little bit about cool things going on in agriculture—a lot of things they probably aren’t thinking of if they’re thinking of stereotypical farms.”
Thiele noted IPPA’s major investment in Animal U, an interactive online curriculum connecting youth to animal agriculture. IPPA and the Iowa Pork Foundation provided the lead gift to kick off the project, developed through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, with Iowa State’s Department of Animal Science.
With the online university, 4-H participants gain instant access to resources related to their livestock projects, and 4-H and classroom educators will find species-specific lessons written for ages 9 to 19. Since the launch of Animal U in March 2020, more than 17,000 people have accessed the site from 46 states, as well as a few countries.
“It’s a different way of reaching the new youth,” said Thiele, whose kids are 4-H’ers and wife a 4-H leader. “4-H is always evolving, and I believe they are headed in the right direction.”
IPPA President Dennis Liljedahl of Essex accepted the award for IPPA, and emphasized that the organization promotes the same values as 4-H, such as “work, family, being a good neighbor, and striving to make the best better.”
“Being better in pork production entails evaluating our practices to understand what works, what doesn’t, and taking advantage of new learning,” he said. “4-H has helped build that base for many of our producers.”
He continued: “Communication is essential to pork producers as we deliver the message of producing safe, nutritious pork. The presentations we did as 4-H’ers provided that sound foundation and confidence that we rely on to tell our story.”