The #RealPigFarming unites pig farmers, academics, youth, veterinarians and allied industry members to talk about pig farming. There are many different ways to raise pigs and #RealPigFarming celebrates all farmers and how they choose to raise their pigs. The most important things are that the pigs are well cared for, measures on the farm ensure food safety and the practices are environmentally sustainable.
Lauren Schwab works on Schwab Family Farm in Somerville, Ohio. She sat down with the #RealPigFarming team to tell us a little bit more about her and her family’s farm.
RPF: Tell me about yourself.
Lauren: I have been working on the farm with my family since I was a little girl. I became a part-time employee in high school, working full-time hours in the summer. Then I worked full-time on the farm through college and decided to continue working on the farm after graduation. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and women’s studies as well as a Master of Science in family studies. I use my journalism degree to freelance write for various publications, the National FFA Organization and blog about farm life, country music and career success at www.farmgirlwithcurls.com
RPF: Tell me about your farm.
Lauren: Schwab Family Farm began with a dream by my dad to raise pigs off the land to feed and support generations to come. He started our farm in Southwest Ohio from breeding a sow as a young boy and falling in love with raising them for 4-H shows and then building a commercial farrow-to-wean farm. He is a first generation farmer.
I grew up working for my dad on our pig farm. I hold close to vivid memories of my dad working day to night and having me come out to work with him on the farm as a child. That sparked a passion in me to remain by his side as an adult, taking care of the pigs that in turn take care of us by providing a nutritious protein source for consumers.
Farming is a business, but it is also a labor of love. I am proud to be an American pig farmer and embrace my life’s calling to care for the pigs and advocate for what farmers do and how they do it. I love walking out to the farm knowing the animals depend on me and people depend on them for a nutritious food source. As a pig farmer, I give back to the animals that give so much to me. I appreciate the opportunity my dad has given to my brother and I.
RPF: Why do you enjoy raising pigs?
Lauren: I remember my childhood summers seeming endless as my little brother and I showed pigs at the county fair. We spent our summers preparing them for the shows. Those summers have come to a close only to open up a new chapter of my life as I take care of the piglets born every week on our farm. I have been fortunate to have my dad pay me for my farm work since high school. I don’t take for granted being able to walk out my door into my barn yard each morning. I get to see my dad and brother each day as I care for 1,100 mother pigs, called sows, and their piglets. We breed the sows and every other week around 110 sows give birth, called farrowing, to a litter of 10 to 12 piglets. It’s my job to care for them as the farrowing barn manager. Once the piglets are three weeks old or 12 to 15 lbs. they are big enough to be weaned from their mothers. They are then delivered to another farmer to stay there until they are ready to go to market.
RPF: What does the We Care Ethical Principle – Ensuring Food Safety – mean to you?
Lauren: Ensuring food safety means I have full confidence when a person purchases pork at the grocery store, I know they are getting a safe, quality and nutritious protein source they can feel good about themselves and their family eating. I want consumers to know my family and I eat the same pork and trust in the care we and all American pig farmers give to their animals to produce safe pork. I had the opportunity to travel to Japan with the National FFA Organization and I saw U.S. pork from the same market my pigs go to in a Japan grocery store. My family knows we are responsible for feeding people all around the world and use the best farm management practices including working with a veterinarian to ensure food safety.
RPF: How do you practice this We Care Ethical Principle on your farm?
Lauren: Ensuring food safety means on our farm we use the best practices to manage the health of the herd to produce safe food. This includes the use of technology in our barns and recommendations from our veterinarian to ensure pig health and human health when consuming pork. We are Pork Quality Assurance Plus® certified and work with a veterinarian to ensure all of our pigs are healthy.
We assess each pig’s health everyday by making sure they are receiving proper nutrition, water and are in clean dry pens. We control temperature in barns to give our pigs a comfortable environment with automatic curtains, fans, misting systems, heaters and heat lamps for the piglets. We group sows according to age, size and due date in breeding and gestation barns with a combination of individual and group pens. We group sows in the farrowing house by due date and sanitize pens for piglet health.
Biosecurity is of upmost importance. Employees are required to shower in and out when arriving and leaving the farm. Specific clothes and shoes are required. No outside vehicles enter the farm premises without specific permission. Any new pigs joining the herd go to designated pens for vaccinations and breeding. These are just a few of the main measures we take to ensure pig health and human health on our farm.
RPF: What do you want people to know about your farm?
Lauren: I want to share my experience as a farmer with consumers and further their understanding of how farmers produce food. I want consumers to know farmers understand their concerns about how their food is raised. My family and all farmers are continually working to improve what we do and give the best care possible to the animals and the land we all live on. I want to produce a product people can feel good about purchasing for themselves and their family. Farmers are real people like them, who care about the land and how food is grown. I want people to know the face behind the food on their plate and give them a sense of trust and understanding in farmers. As a millennial farmer and blogger, I connect with young adults who care about their food, our environment and their careers. It’s up to the next generation to continue the family farm and America’s agriculture.