After high school, Mike Marshall planned to enlist in the Marines. But he didn’t pass the physical exam.

“There I was, starting my senior year, and wasn’t exactly sure what direction I was going,” he recalls.

However, another opportunity would soon come knocking. Mike’s parents and grandparents owned a farm just west of Lewis, and Mike spent summers helping area farmers walk beans and fix fences. So when a nearby farmer died, that man’s family approached Mike about taking over his farm.

“I decided I might as well try,” says Mike, 53. “Never planted a row of corn in my life.”

He moved to the farm in 1986, and today operates MT Farms with his wife Tracy—who he calls his “business partner.” They built three  feeder-to-finish barns on the property in 1998 and have raised pigs for a few systems. For the past five years, they’ve been contract growers for AMVC.

Tracy, 48, whose dad farrowed pigs, was the “original caretaker” of the hogs, and has resumed more barn chores while on furlough from her full-time job. She manages the kitchen at Creighton University Retreat Center near Griswold, which is closed to groups because of COVID-19. Along with occasionally hiring high schoolers, their son Casey, 28, assists on the farm when he’s not working at Lindeman Tractor, an implement dealer in Atlantic. Mike also works off the farm, picking up seasonal shifts at an area co-op.

Mike and Tracy Marshall of Lewis, Iowa, were named Master Pork Producers during Iowa Pork Congress on Jan. 26, 2021.

The Marshalls grow 750 acres of corn. About a decade ago, they purchased a tank and agitator to apply manure onto their fields, as well as for a few neighbors.

The Marshalls are members of the Iowa Pork Producers and Iowa Corn Growers associations. As Iowa Farm Bureau members, they served three years on the state Young Farmer Advisory Committee; served 15 years on the Cass County Farm Bureau Board; and received the Young Farmer Achievement Award in 1994. They are active in a local Bible study; provide donations to local fire departments; and have been involved with 4-H, FFA, and school activities. Mike spent 12 years as a volunteer wrestling coach.

AMVC emphasized the Marshalls’ “big hearts” and called them a class act. During the downturn in the markets in 2020, the Marshalls offered to take a reduction in their barn lease payment, though AMVC declined.

The Marshalls have two other children.