By Kennedy Janssen, U of M Junior
I was sun kissed, tan, and a little overwhelmed with America in general. I had just gotten back from Nicaragua on a trip with GIVE volunteers and I was a little nervous to start my internship with Minnesota Pork the next day. From the first day on, I was thrown into a fantastic work culture where I was constantly learning and being pushed out of my comfort zone. Little did I know that my summer would teach me just as much about myself as it did about the pork industry. (No worries, I still got my travel kick in, too!) Throughout the summer, I traveled all around the great state of Minnesota with my fellow intern, Gabriella, sharing the wonderful story of pig farming.
The focus for this internship was mainly communications. My job was to represent the Minnesota pork industry to the best of my ability. Gabriella and I visited farmers markets in urban areas and encouraged people to ask us questions about pig farming and pork. For every question asked, we donated a pound of ground pork to Second Harvest Heartland. We talked with people on every end of the spectrum. From answering a 6-year-old’s question of “why pigs oink,” to discussing the environmental aspects of pig farming with a 60-year-old Minneapolis native, I heard it all. I also had the opportunity to interact with many of the pig farmers of Minnesota. It was intriguing to hear what they thought about the industry and the work that they do.
I learned an immense amount throughout this internship. I was able to go on a tour of the John Morrell processing plant, which was incredibly eye opening. I facilitated farm camps for kids, worked with social media outlets, and sat in on meetings discussing the policies behind the industry as a whole. I learned how to organize events while helping plan the Young Leaders in Ag Conference last June. Next was Farmfest, where Gabriella and I were in charge of the Pork Ambassador contest. Finally, we finished up our internship working at the Minnesota State Fair.
I got to see every aspect of the pork industry on a higher level than I expected. The biggest take away from this year was what I learned by interacting with diverse types of people. My job was to share the awesome story of Minnesota pig farmers – and what I grew to understand was that everyone has a story. People believe what they believe due to experiences in their past. I realized that if I empathized with them and saw where they were coming from, progress was usually made. I’d like to think I learned just as much from them, as they did from me.
I have great hope for the future of Minnesota Pork and am excited to continue to be involved in this industry for years to come. This summer was filled with lots of pigs and lots of people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!