Pig Farms Thrive on Open Communications and Mutual Respect

Raul Romero, a manager for Iowa Select Farms, loves working on pig farms and is often seen singing and dancing as he works with the pigs. But life on a pig farm can be stressful, too. That’s why he says farms need open communication and mutual respect among the workers.

2,500 pigs

“We know when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to work,” said Romero, who is a professional swine farm manager at a farm with about 2,500 pigs near Osceola, a town in south-central Iowa. “Communication is key. We make sure to talk about issues that may come up.”

Romero grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he became interested in animal agriculture while attending the University of Guadalajara’s College of Agriculture and Biological Science. While there, he attended a class in which the teacher brought some piglets.

“I loved how curious and happy they were,” Romero said of the little pigs. After that he was hooked on pig farming. He went on swine farm field trips for classes he wasn’t even enrolled in. Then he took more classes in farm business, including veterinary classes that led to a degree in animal science.

After graduation, he got a job on a small farm with about 50 animals in Cuquio, a rural town in central-western Mexico. While he loved the farm, it was very rustic and lacked the latest technology. Searching online for a new job, he learned about Iowa Select Farms. He was hired in 2017 and moved from Mexico to Iowa.

In February of 2019, Iowa Select Farms sent him to its farm near Osceola as a breeding specialist, and he’s since been promoted to a leadership role. Although Romero is now a manager, he said the employees all work together as a team. And that’s critical to ensuring safety for people and pigs.

“They’re good, they’re experienced, they know what to do,” Romero said of his fellow employees. “I don’t give orders – we work together. They are not afraid to say something if they have an idea or if they think something is not right.”

Open communication was not always easy for an immigrant who did not grow up speaking English. Now that he is fluent, Romero helps other Spanish-speaking workers in Iowa handle day-to-day tasks like opening a bank account, ordering online, getting a tow truck for their car or understanding work visa requirements.

He also gives back to his community in other ways, including volunteering for Osceola’s fire department or for the local Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation, which was established in 2006 by the owners of Iowa Select Farms and is dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of fellow Iowans. Iowans, he said, welcomed him to the community and he wants to be helpful in return.

“I feel like I’m in the right place,” he said. “I feel like I can be who I am here.”
pig farmer, raul romero, standing in a pig barn