Farmers are reminded of life lessons every day in their barns, some heavy, some light. I’ve asked several of my friends to weigh in on what life lesson is most important to them. So many happenings on a farm reinforce lessons that are important in our daily lives. Whether or not you grew up on a farm, you will see the value in these lessons. No one said raising pigs was easy, but all of these contributors will agree: it’s worth it.
12 Life Lessons Reinforced in a Barn
1. Life is fragile.
“Every time I walk into the barn with my kids, opportunities usually present themselves to teach a valuable lesson to them. The toughest but most rewarding lesson is that ‘life is fragile’, because we encourage the kids to give the runts or fall-behind piglets a second chance. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. We are reminded that occasionally despite our best effort things don’t work out how we’d like, which is a crucial lesson in life for young kids. But for every loss, there is a lesson and the next pig that is spared because of their hard work means that much more.”
-Cristen, Food & Swine
2. Be kind, uplifting and realistic to inspire youth.
“As a judge of many pig shows, communicating with the kids kindly was so critical to me. Asking questions and actively conversing with the showman about their hog stimulated thought for them and forced them to look at their project in a realistic way. There was a lot of pressure judging the shows that I did, but it is so enjoyable to reflect on the industry improving contributions of the not only the hogs I used, but of the many kids I had the opportunity to work with, in and out of the ring.”
-Al Christian, legend in the swine industry, (too many awards to list), Iowa State University Allen E. Christian Swine Teaching Farm, 2012 NPPC Hall of Fame Award Recipient, 2006 National Barrow Show Hall of Fame (seriously… so many awards, I’ll list them all another time!), and great friend of our family.
3. Do one thing better than everybody else.
“This was told to me by my father-in-law, Rob when I arrived on the family farm in 2004. With no farming experience and being raised in the city, this really resonated with me and helped me focus my passion and drive in the barn. I’ve made it my goal to make day one newborn piglet care an art. It is a puzzle every day that I will forever be excited about putting together. If a person can strive to be better at anything they are passionate about in their life, that’s a great thing.”
-Erin Brenneman, Public Relations and Day One Farrowing Specialist for Brenneman Pork. Connect with Erin @SowMomma on Instagram or on the Brenneman Pork Facebook page.
4. See the good in everyone.
“I hear a lot these days that the world is a cruel place, I guess when you look for darkness you will always find darkness. I’m an optimist, I believe that there is good everyone. That is why I love working with pig farmers. They are some of the most humble, hard-working people you will ever meet – who always look for the good in everyone and every situation.”
-Claire Masker is the public relations director for the Pork Checkoff. She grew up on a farm in Southwest Iowa.
5. Let your faith be bigger than your fear.
“I’ve had the opportunity to learn so many things about pigs, farming, and life from so many different and talented people. But even for what I know today, there are still times where farming, family and life push me out of my comfort zone and I’m challenged to rise above. I’m grateful for all the people in this awesome industry that have pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable I could do; those that encouraged me to trust in my faith and my ability to do something, rather than to run scared from it.”
-Emily Erickson, pig farmer and Animal Well-Being and Quality Assurance Manager, New Fashion Pork
6. Build bonds that can’t be broken.
“From my perspective, I can’t think of a better way to bond with your family. The time we spent out in the barn or working with the pigs is where my kids and I learned from each other. I got to be involved in their world, talking to them about their lives and not just about the pigs. The countless hours that my kids spent in the barn is where they learned to work with each other and develop life skills that are so important. Bonds with family, new and old friends and even additions to the family (it’s a great way to “break-in” the boyfriends, which have turned into fiances for two of my daughters) were all strengthened while working with the pigs. The pig barn is where the relationships in our family were really built.”
-Bryan Branderhorst, father of four, pig farmer, show pig enthusiast, Lindner United Show Feed dealer. Connect with Diamond B Showpigs on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
7. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
“Because of pigs, I got to put on a suit and travel to places I never would have gone and see things I’d have never seen. I’ve met people I’d have never met before and have gotten to shake hands and become their friend. I’ve been able to represent my industry, which is important to me and it has lead me to do things I never thought I’d do. All of this I got to do because of pigs.”
-Hilman Schroeder, industry legend and constant improver of the Yorkshire breed, owner of Schroeder Farms in Sauk City, WI.
8. Listening intently is underrated.
“I’m a bit old school in my preference of hogs and my outlook on life. I will say I’m wise enough to know when to sit back and listen. Hogs will tell you what you’re doing right, and they’ll let you know what you are doing wrong. Much like in life, if you sit back and listen, you can learn many things from many people. I’ve learned to sit back and study the hogs that are handling things well, and judge the differences between the good ones, and pigs that don’t handle themselves as well. Mother nature doesn’t lie, she’s worth listening to. This has helped me in the 40 years I’ve been in this business. Listening helps me make decisions that benefit my operation on a daily basis.” -Mike Day is from Ames, Oklahoma where he raises high quality, functional Hampshires and Durocs.
Connect with him on Day Farms Facebook page or by phone at 580-554-6385.
9. Surround yourself with people who GET IT.
“Through advocacy and pig farming, I’ve been able to meet people who have the same passion, drive, and values that I have. I know that I can count on my friends whenever I need something and I’ll do the same for them. The agriculture industry truly has the best people involved and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
-Lexi Marek is a current junior at Iowa State University but remains a farm girl at heart as she grew up on her family’s diversified livestock and grain farm. Connect with Lexi on social media: @LexiMarek or through her website or blog Facebook page.
10. Hands on experience is the best experience.
“Every single day is a take your child to work day. Nothing teaches work ethic like seeing it and being a part of it on a daily basis along side your parents, it is something I experienced growing up on a farm and privileged to do the same for my kids.”
-Jennifer Campbell is a pig farmer, agvocate and blogger from Franklin, Indiana. Connect with Jennifer and her delicious recipes along with life on her farm at: farmwifefeeds.com
11. It only becomes their passion if you share yours.
“I always say that I was born into a pig pen and most days now, I am never too far from one. Pig farming for our family is as much generational than anything and because my father shared his passion for farming with me it has instilled a drive to share that within my next generation. If you do not share your passion with them, it will never become theirs so our farm’s next generation is as involved in the farm as anyone with hopes that one day it will be theirs.”
-Thomas Titus, 6th generation farmer with a passion for pigs, family and advocacy. Find him on Twitter and Instagram or at RBC Chesters on Facebook.
12. There is no substitute for a good friend.
“I’ve met some of the best friends a person could ask for, and they are farmers. These people are down to earth, humble and kind. The ultimate bonus is I can always call them if I have a question about raising pigs and get great advice, then we can talk about our kids or whatever else comes up. I wouldn’t trade these friends for the world, and they are all of the people that contributed to this blog post. I can’t thank them enough.”
-Cristen, Food & Swine