The state of Iowa boasts the ultimate intersection of family, farming, food and FOOTBALL. In one of my first “official” (non-family member) interviews, hear from former ISU defensive star Jordan Carstens about how his football experience translates to his life as an Iowa farmer. Also, following the interview, a football inspired Super Bowl centerpiece for your game day spread from the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
Food, Family, Farming & Football: An interview with Jordan Carstens
by: Cristen Clark
Former Iowa State University football standout, now Iowa pig farmer Jordan Carstens didn’t achieve the decorated football career he did without plenty of hard work and a competitive spirit. Carstens, along with his wife Sarah and children Madelyn and Cole, farm near Bagley, Iowa. Along with his extended family, they raise pigs and grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Carstens claims his competitive nature was born in his upbringing on the farm.
“Work ethic was extremely important and my parents did their best to instill that in me at a young age. I grew up on a farm, and there was competition amongst everyone working there. Even in the remedial tasks like scooping corn or baling hay, there was competition. You could say the foundation of my work ethic was built on the farm.”
Carstens has somewhat of a fairytale story of success on the football field, born of hard work and leadership. He was the final player selected, by then Coach Dan McCarney to complete the 1999 Cyclone football roster, as a redshirt freshman. That season he became the defensive scout team’s player of the year. With each passing season he accumulated consistently greater accolades, not only for his work on the field, but for his effort in the classroom as well. In his senior campaign among many other awards he was selected first-team All-Big 12 Conference defensive lineman, and academic first-team All-Big 12 Conference scholar. As much as football and his committed work ethic are integral parts to this Iowa farmer’s story, so is his education.
“When it comes to football and farming, work ethic is the biggest connecting piece for me. However, farming is much more involved than just physical labor. My education from Iowa State is incredibly important in my day to day from a business aspect on the farm. I’m really glad I went to ISU, it broadened my horizons. My time there gave me business skills and I was able to make connections that are integral to business on the farm”, said Carstens.
If a person read all of the content out there about the successful career of this farm kid, turned football star, they’d assume that leadership qualities were just part of the package, yet Carstens says otherwise. “I was the youngest of the 6 people involved in our farming operation growing up, so I wasn’t called on to be a leader in that situation much. It isn’t my style to be a big vocal leader, but leading by example came easy for me on the football field. Coach McCarney was instrumental in the development of my leadership abilities and gave me confidence to become the outspoken leader my team needed me to be.” Carstens enjoys spending time with friends and family, especially when there’s a football game worth watching. “We don’t have a game day ritual per se, but hanging out with friends and family is something we always do. There has to be great food.” he said.
When I asked this pig farmer how he enjoys pork the most, he revealed that simplicity is best.
“Pork is versatile, but I’m a simple guy. Smoked pork tenderloin is number one for me, and of course I enjoy bacon and ribs too, who doesn’t?”
He also mentioned his wife makes one recipe that their game day parties wouldn’t be complete without. “She makes these little smokies, wrapped in bacon, with brown sugar. I love those things.”
When asked what he’d like to say to the people purchasing pork at the grocery store he talked about his family. “I like to stress the family aspect of our farm when I am out talking with people. The animals we raise are our livelihood. Ensuring they have proper care and that they are healthy is our priority. Our bottom line suffers if we don’t take the best care of our animals possible, and then take special care to get them to market safely.”
Family is especially important to this Iowa farmer, and he takes pride in the opportunity to raise his kids up on the land. “I enjoy working with my family. My wife and I look forward to continuing to raise our children and give them opportunities to work on the farm. My son loves to work on the farm, it is so important to leave a legacy and I’ll work hard to ensure that our farm gets passed on to the next generation.”
To celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, which is the second largest food holiday in the U.S., according to the USDA, we are sharing a simple, scrumptious football-inspired appetizer. Covered in chopped bacon, and loaded with cheese and bacon throughout, this football shaped cheese ball can be a great centerpiece on your game day spread!
This farmer profile interview post is sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Opinions expressed are my own.