By: Paige Hildebrandt, Agricultural Communication & Marketing Major
What’s better than talking to people about pigs and pig farming, connecting with farmers from across the state, and preparing tasty pork loin samples for people at Twins games, town festivities, and so much more? You can try to convince me otherwise, but my summer as one of the Minnesota Pork Board Interns was one to remember. The Minnesota Pork Board is a mandatory checkoff organization for the pig farmers of Minnesota. For every $100 in value of pigs sold to market, Minnesota Pork Board receives 40 cents. These funds are used to promote their main goals which are to fund research, engage in education, and promote pork products. Located in Mankato, the Minnesota Pork Board has two summer interns every year that help conduct public relations and communications tasks throughout the summer. This past summer I was lucky enough to be selected as one of those interns.
To say this summer went by in a flash is an extreme understatement. From driving across the state attending town festivals and facilitating Oink Outings to attending stakeholder meetings and connecting with farmers, my four-month internship went by in a flash. As a communications and public relation intern, I spent about half of my time working on communications pieces such as stories for the newsletters or infographics and the other half was spent out in the public talking to consumers about pork and pig farming. Although I could spend hours talking about the variety of experiences I had, there is one experience that impacted me this summer.
rather than to be understood first, and this is a lesson that I will carry with me in my personal and professional career going forward.
In its eighth year, the Oink Outing program is an outreach activity where pig farmers from across the state volunteer to go to town festivals, farmers markets, zoos, and other events around Minnesota and share their pig farming story. The main goal of the program is to answer any questions consumers have about pig farming, pigs, or pork. Putting a face to a pig farmer and engaging in an open and informal conversation about what we do as pig farmers allows us to gain the trust of our consumers and help clear up any misconceptions that consumers may have about our industry. Having attended over 15 of these events this summer, I not only learned how to engage in conversation with consumers, but also how to listen to consumers concerns and have real candid conversations about what I do on my farm every day. Although we were approached by a few animal activists, vegans, or people against food animal production, most of the people we talked to were simply curious and excited to learn about where their bacon came from. I learned not to assume that the consumer was against my profession but rather enter the conversation with an open mind and allow them to lead the conversation to as in-depth or simple as they wanted. I learned to seek to understand
Although this internship requires commitment, I can say wholeheartedly that I learned more and grew more this summer than I hadin past internships. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who is willing to be pushed out of their comfort zone and wants to learn more about the pork industry and the fantastic people who are a part of it.