Iowans vying to become America's Pig Farmer of the Year

Two Iowa hog farmers vying for national award

APF_SocialGraphics_General2A pair of Iowa hog farmers is among four finalists selected to become America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM.

The public can vote to determine the winner.

The National Pork Board announced the finalists for the inaugural award on Sept. 1. The goal of the program is to honor the U.S. pig farmer who best excels at raising pigs using the We CareSM ethical principles of pork production and is best able to share his or her farming story with the American public. The award is part of the Pork Board’s commitment to grow consumer trust in all aspects of U.S. pork production.

The 2015 Iowa finalists are Steve Kerns of Clearfield and Marti Knoblock from Rock Rapids. The other two finalists are Keith Schoettmer of Tipton, Indiana, and Lauren Schwab from Somerville, Ohio.

“The four finalists represent the diverse pork industry in the United States,” said National Pork Board President Derrick Sleezer, a farmer from Cherokee. “They all have shown a focus on environmental sustainability, animal welfare and continuous improvement.”

Founded in 1966, Kerns Farms started as a 4-H project and has grown into a full-scale seedstock operation. Steve and Becky Kerns manage their farm with the help of sons, Karl and Matt, as well as three employees. They market 10,000 pigs annually. The 320-acre farm’s facilities include hoop barns, open lots and curtain-sided and mechanically ventilated barns.

Marti Knoblock is one of the family owners of GMC Farms, located near Rock Rapids. Founded in 1980, GMC Farms is co-owned by Marti and his brothers, Mitch Knoblock and Morris Metzger. GMC Farms raises pigs in modern slatted, curtain-sided barns with deep pits and markets 23,000 pigs annually. The family also raises corn, soybeans and cattle.

Keith and Darla Schoettmer founded Schoettmer Prime Pork in 1987. The farm has grown steadily over the years despite many changes in the pork industry. Today, they raise 22,000 pigs annually on the farrow-to-finish farm with the help of eight full-time employees.

Lauren Schwab proudly works as a second-generation farmer on the 230-acre farm founded in 1977 by her father, Jeff.  The farrow-to-wean farm is home to 12 independent barns that house 1,100 sows. The modern barns provide the proper environment for the sows, which are individually cared for and observed daily to assess their needs. The sows produce about 30,000 piglets a year, which are then sold to other farmers for finishing.

The four finalists met earlier this week with an expert panel of judges in Chicago. The judges viewed on-farm videos produced at the finalists’ farms and conducted in-person interviews with each of them.

The public can vote once a day per person/e-mail address for their favorite finalist through Sept. 10 at The winner will be announced on Oct. 7.

The National Pork Board created the America’s Pig Farmer of the Year contest in order to recognize the best in pig farming. This prestigious honor will be awarded annually to the pig farmer who demonstrates and lives by the We Care ethical principles.