SDSU student provides a fresh face for the pork industry

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- With the present stereotype of farmers all being older men, the National Pork Board has decided to challenge the status quo of the farmer image.

From left, Kyle Coble, Madison Schafer and Logan Thornton were selected as the inaugural Pig Farmers of Tomorrow by the National Pork Board. (National Pork Board)

BROOKINGS, S.D. - With the present stereotype of farmers all being older men, the National Pork Board has decided to challenge the status quo of the farmer image.

Madison Schafer, of Goodhue, Minn., is one of three young professionals selected as Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. Currently a junior at South Dakota State University, she is a dual major in agricultural leadership and agricultural communication, with minors in animal science, marketing and agricultural business.

"I'm looking forward to be meeting with a wide variety of pig farmers and to be able to make an impact with every person I meet, whether it's a crowd of 100 or just one person," Schafer says.

Kyle Coble of Jackson, Minn., and Logan Thornton of Kuna, Idaho, were the others selected for the award, which is brand new this year. It is open to individuals ages 18-29 who plan to be involved in pig farming, are committed to the pork industry's We Care ethical principles and have completed a Common Industry Audit on their farms.

The three recognized as the pig farmers of tomorrow were selected based on knowledge, passion, ability to communicate and enthusiasm for the pork industry, according to Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications for the National Pork Board.


"These young leaders are really important because they put a face to the pork industry and show the diverse range of young women and young men involved in pig farming," Cunningham says. "Madison is a tremendous example because of her enthusiasm and passion for wanting to share the story of what happens every day on the farm."

Responsibilities for the role include participating in media training, a video shoot, interviews, speaking, using Facebook Live and the Real Pig Farming blog and Twitter page. Schafer says the producers have the opportunity to do what they want with the program since it's in its first year.

She looks forward to creating events, and is in the process of planning one to take place at SDSU. Right now, she says it will likely be at the end of the summer and will host key influencers on campus.

One message she wants people to know is that farmers care about animals and are not in it just for money, but also because it is their passion.

"Farming is not always comfortable, doesn't have good hours or the best money," Schafer says. "Farming isn't always the best way to make a living, but I think it's the best way to make a life."

From a young age she was actively involved on the farm. In seventh grade, she and her mom took over their boar stud. "I had no idea that was not normal or different at first, or that it gave me a unique story to tell."

The Schafer family farm consists of a 1,600 sow unit, a 600 sow unit, seven replacement gilt development barns and 150 cow-calf pairs. Madison is the seventh generation on the 130-year-old farm.

As a freshman in high school, Schafer became involved with the Minnesota Pork Board through various programs and volunteering. She regularly volunteers with Oink Outings, which brings pig farmers to the Twin Cities metro area. As a freshmen in college, Schafer became a Minnesota Pork Ambassador.


Jill Resler, director of education with the Minnesota Pork Board and mentor to Schafer, says Schafer has been a strong leader for the industry for several years now.

"Madison is definitely someone who leads by example," Resler says. "She has an incredible ability to connect with lots of different people and help them understand the why of what we do on farms every day."

For Schafer, this opportunity is right in line with her career goals.

"I would love to be a public speaker to some extent," she says. "I also want to incorporate agri-tourism in our farm and area to allow people to experience the farm for themselves. My grandma currently handles the finance and accounting for the farm, and I hope to take over that to have a steady part in the farm."

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