Parenting through life lessons learned on a pig farm: Beautiful, funny and sad

In our house, we eat pork. It is that simple. We eat what we raise, and are proud to raise pigs alongside a number of talented, dedicated, pig farmers. When you are enjoying a juicy pork chop or thick cut bacon, there's a chance it was raised in ...

Halle Clark with a piglet. Cristen Clark, Food & Swine

In our house, we eat pork.

It is that simple. We eat what we raise, and are proud to raise pigs alongside a number of talented, dedicated, pig farmers. When you are enjoying a juicy pork chop or thick cut bacon, there's a chance it was raised in Iowa, as we raise one-third of the nation's pork. Iowa is the No. 1 pork producing state in the U.S., employing nearly 40,000 people and boosting our state's economy in a great way.

Raising delicious, nutritious food is top of mind for any farmer. It is our goal to sustainably produce more pork using fewer resources, and we rely heavily on new, modern technologies to get us there. You'll find many different styles of pig farming in our state, and I embrace them all. It makes the technical side of my brain satisfied to learn the facts and statistics on the improvements pig farmers make every year to become better caretakers of their stock and stewards of the land.

The "mom" side of my brain is thankful to be a pig farmer in our quiet little state. Raising pigs gives my kids experiences that they wouldn't have otherwise and develops parts of their character that I wouldn't otherwise be able to as effectively. There are few life experiences that could appropriately replace the act of drying a newborn piglet off and helping to nurse for the first time. If you ask my daughter if she'd prefer a number of activities or sitting behind a sow as she farrows her piglets, she chooses pigs every time. Mothering through lessons on the farm is unique. Some days are full of beauty and eye opening experiences for my children. Then there are days where my son rolls into preschool and talks about the differences between natural breeding and artificial insemination, with a special message about rotating semen. I giggle a bit, apologize to some parents who aren't as "farm-iliar" and move on.

As all farmers know, for various reasons, most of which are out of our control and despite our greatest efforts, animals can die. Personally, this life lesson is the hardest for me to help my kids through. In most facets of their life, we teach our children that if they try hard, they will become more successful or be rewarded in some capacity. The lesson of "no matter how hard you try, nothing will work" is the most difficult one for most kids to understand. Consequently, it is the most complex life lesson to teach. On the other side of the pain, these experiences make our children better and teach them to appreciate the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of others, farmers or not, even more.


There's beauty in the small moments on the farm. They should be cherished.

If you've ever visited Iowa you'll know that folks around here "cherish" a classic breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. Here's my version, and I will let you know that more often than not, we skip the bun, slice the breaded and fried tenderloin into strips and serve them with honey mustard or ranch dressing for dipping.

Classic Iowa Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Makes 4 large sandwiches

Ingredients: For the breading:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons seasoned salt


1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 eggs

3 tablespoons milk

1 sleeve Chicken in a Biskit crackers, crushed

1 cup panko bread crumbs

4 boneless pork loin chops

1 quart peanut or vegetable oil

4 large sandwich or Kaiser rolls, split and buttered


Dill pickles, ketchup, mustard, thinly sliced sweet onions

Combine the flour, cornstarch, seasoned salt, and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Remove and reserve 2 tablespoons of this mixture. In a second shallow baking dish, whisk the eggs and milk together until well-blended. In a third dish, combine the crushed crackers and panko, plus the reserved flour/cornstarch mixture.

Butterfly each pork chop and pound between sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet to a quarter inch thick.

To coat, first dredge each piece of pork on both sides in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg mixture to coat both sides, then dredge in the crumb mixture, pressing gently to coat both sides evenly. Transfer the pork to a clean plate and repeat the process with the remaining pork. Allow the pork to rest for 20 minutes to give the breading time to adhere to the meat.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil to 350 F. Fry the breaded pork until golden brown on both sides, about three minutes per side. The pork is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate.

In a skillet, butter and toast buns over medium-high heat. Serve pork loin on buns with condiments of choice.

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