The year was 1956, and Kansas pork farmers were faced with a challenge. The industry and the nature of which a farmer conducted his business were changing. The days of a farmer who raised his pigs to meet the demand for pork lard were diminishing. The need for communication and collaboration between pork farmers was growing and demand for lean pork at the grocery store was rising. Kansas pork farmers were in need of an organization and leadership.
At the request of farmers, Wendell Moyer, an extension specialist in the Kansas State College Animal Husbandry Department, invited 30 pork farmers to a meeting on campus and the Kansas Swine Improvement Association was created. Dues were set at $1.00 per member. A president, vice president and secretary-treasurer were elected, and the first board of directors consisted of presidents of each of the breed organizations in the state and nine pork farmers. Their purpose was to work together to ensure that pork farmers had a future for their families.
As the state’s farms continued to grow and evolve, so did its farmers’ needs. In 1958, a relationship between the Association and Kansas State University was established. That union is still going strong today. Pig farming in the 1970s was improving and farmers were now working toward creating a lean and healthy product for families to enjoy. Farmers realized that to sell pork, they needed to be on the front lines talking to grocery shoppers and promoting their product. It was then that the organization changed its name to the Kansas Pork Producers Council and began working with educators, dietitians and home cooks.
In the years that followed, farmers instituted a national pork checkoff to help fund research, education and projects like eatpork.org. Pork farmers could look to the Council to take the lead on checkoff activities and non-checkoff activities were fueled by the Kansas Pork Association. In 2012, the two entities merged under the Kansas Pork Association brand.
Today, farming looks different than it did in 1956 and we think that’s a good thing. About 98% of all pigs marketed in Kansas live inside barns to help the animals with the extreme Kansas temperatures, both cold and hot. More than 99% of our farms are family owned. That said, the farms are not all the same. We have farmers who raise pigs inside barns, others in pens or pastures and some are in hoop buildings. Some raise only mother pigs or market hogs, while others raise pigs from birth to market. Why you ask? That’s simple: our farmers do what is best for their farm, their family and their community.
Yes, our farms have changed since 1956, but at the end of the day, what remains the same is that our Kansas farmers love raising pigs and we want to share their hard work with you. We encourage everyone reading this to do one thing, get to know a Kansas pork farmer, whether that is here or in your community. Our mission is to help you know about your food and to help our farmers pass down their farms to the next generation. From our family to yours, thanks for being a part of our story.