Jim Hitchler — Le Mars, Plymouth County

Jim Hitchler delivers feed to pork producers as a driver for Gengler Feed Service in Remsen. As early as 4 a.m., he’s at the feed mill checking the board for the day’s orders. Often his truck is already loaded, and he gets rolling.

Hitchler started hauling feed about five years ago. Prior to that, he spent 20 years owning and running a 1,250-head sow unit, plus he had nurseries and finishers. The Iowa Pork Producers Association named him a Master Pork Producer in 2006.

However, faced with the increasing difficulty of finding reliable employees, he called it quits. When his last pigs went out in 2019, Hitchler obtained a commercial driver’s license and started hauling for Kent Nutrition in Sheldon, servicing four states. He landed at Gengler about four years ago, and now has some 385 destinations, with the farthest being 75 miles away.

Hitchler’s understanding of pork production is valuable in his current role, as he knows the different phases and feeds. If he’s delivering during the night or early morning, he can quickly identify a nursery from a finisher, to figure out what rations go in which bins.

Another perk—Hitchler knows most of the county’s pig farmers. “You pull onto a guy’s farm and can spend five minutes talking about your families and this or that,” he says.

Hitchler grew up in rural Nebraska and did pig chores for his agriculture teacher. He had a few pigs of his own during high school, and two months after graduating, he began working at a 1,000-sow, grow-finish operation. He later moved to a sow management company that transferred him to northwest Iowa in the late 1980s.

Hitchler has been a member of the Plymouth County Pork Producers for more than 30 years. He participates in grilling events; tracks the organization’s activities to submit for state-level awards; and coordinates an annual pork night at a Sioux City Musketeers hockey game. 

During the Plymouth County Fair, he helps with the swine show as a member of the 4-H swine committee, and last year assisted with the county’s first Bacon Buddies® event, which provides individuals with disabilities the chance to show a pig.

Hitchler and his wife Kara have three daughters: Elizabeth, 16, Katherine, 13, and Savannah, 10.