I didn’t grow up on a farm. But since discovering my love for agriculture in college, I have spent the past 40 years raising hogs. I worked on farms around the world – from southwest Kansas to Singapore – before finally moving with my family to Goldsboro, where my husband and I started our own hog farm more than 25 years ago.
Along the way, I’ve seen the pork industry undergo a dramatic transformation. Today, we are raising more hogs and producing more pork – and we’re doing it in a way that is safer, more humane and more transparent than ever before.
As the newly elected president of the National Pork Board, I represent hog farmers across America. But it’s the farmers here in North Carolina I know best.
More than 80 percent of hog farms in North Carolina are family-owned farms – and I’m proud to operate one of those farms. My husband and I own a 120-acre family farm where we raise hogs and grow corn, soybeans and hay. Our breed-to-wean operation includes 1,200 sows that produce about 28,000 weaned pigs each year.
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We love our farm, and we love our animals. Our hope is that our farm is around to teach the next generation. We want our grandchildren to learn the valuable lessons we’ve learned – about how to care for animals, how to care for the land and how to work hard until a job is done.
And, trust me, farming is hard work. It’s physically demanding, and it’s difficult. You don’t do it if you don’t love animals – it’s too much time and effort. Every livestock producer I know got into farming because of a love for animals.
That’s why I am so excited that the pork industry is on the cutting edge of animal care and sustainability. Through my work with the National Pork Board, I’m privileged to be part of the discussions that our farmers are having about how we can continue to improve animal care, be responsible stewards of the environment and contribute to a better quality of life in our communities.
The pork industry’s economic impact in North Carolina is impressive: It contributes more than $11 billion to our state’s economy and supports 46,000 full-time jobs. Many rural communities across Eastern North Carolina rely heavily on the jobs and income produced by the pork industry.
While the pork industry has always been an important part of our state’s economy, there is a huge difference between hog farming today and 50 years ago. There are more regulations and more stringent standards than ever before, as well as a greater emphasis on sharing knowledge among farmers about how to do things the right way.
One new rule concerns the use of antibiotics. We are working with farmers to make sure they understand rules that take effect next year and can work with a veterinarian to determine what is best for their animals.
Hog farmers often say that we produce 5 pounds of paperwork for every pound of pork – but that’s part of the job. It’s important that we operate in a responsible and transparent manner. We have an obligation to raise healthy animals, produce safe food and take good care for our environment. That’s what it means to be a farmer.
Jan Archer, an owner of Archer Farms in Goldsboro, was recently elected president of the National Pork Board.