63,000 New Livestock Jobs: Meet Nine New Iowa Farmers
A new study by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers reveals that jobs provided by livestock farming jumped by 63,000 over the last five years, all right here in Iowa. In fact, 31 percent of Iowa’s total economic output comes from agriculture; a 10 percent gain from 2012.
The study shows that agriculture, especially livestock production, drives Iowa’s economy by creating jobs. Jobs that provide incomes that are the economic heartbeat of rural communities. You can check out growth by county here.
We can attest to some of that growth in livestock jobs, because we have seen it here at Iowa Select Farms.
#1—Rachael Waters, Sow Farm Manager
Growing up in the river town of Burlington, Rachael didn’t live on a farm, but knew how important agriculture is to Iowa. She left Burlington for Ames and started working at the Beef Teaching and Research Farm while working towards a degree in animal science at Iowa State University.
During her senior year, a friend told her to check out Iowa Select Farms. He told her about the opportunity for growth, the family atmosphere and the fun perks. It piqued her attention.
She joined Iowa Select Farms, and while it was her first time working with pigs, she quickly found her stride—working at farms near Hubbard, Riceville and now Webster City. In fact, since graduating three years ago, Rachael has earned several promotions and now manages a sow farm and a crew of 12.
#2—Cody Shear, Farm Manager and Army Veteran
Growing up in Dumont, Cody always knew his future career would somehow be tied to agriculture. “My Grandpa, Dad and uncles ran the elevator in Bristow along with a trucking business,” he said. “Farming definitely fueled our small town.”
Before his roots grew too deep, Cody knew he wanted to serve his country. After graduating from Hampton-Dumont High School, Cody joined the Army and shortly thereafter found himself in Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training. Fast forward four years and Cody had moved twice and been on four deployments to Afghanistan.
“I learned a lot in those four years,” said Cody. “From selfless service and following through with your commitments, the military taught me a lot about succeeding in any career and life.”
Upon returning home, Cody worked for a local cooperative as a custom applicator. To earn additional income on the side, he started taking care of the pigs on two Iowa Select Farms finishing farms. After six months, he was hooked.
#3—Lynn Pavlovic, DVM
Lynn grew up helping out on dairy farms in Pennsylvania. Her love for livestock drew her to the University of Pennsylvania for a degree in animal science and a doctorate in veterinary medicine. While in school, she worked at the swine teaching farm and got the “bug” for pig farming.
“Everyone told me if I wanted to see the industry, I needed to go to Iowa,” she said. So during her senior year she applied with Iowa Select Farms for a two-week externship, an opportunity vet students have to experience different companies, clinics and veterinary career paths.
After riding along with a different person each day, she was hooked. She knew the feeling was mutual when she got a job offer to join the health services team as a staff veterinarian.
Three years later, Lynn has settled in the small town of Manson and is our Director of Wean-Finish Health. Reflecting back to her college years, Lynn says she thought the swine industry was big, but what is most surprising is how small it feels. “It feels like a family, the way we share information and ideas with other farmers and help each other out.”
#4—Trent Myers, Finishing Supervisor
Growing up in Dike, Trent always had an interest in agriculture, but other than periodically helping his uncle with chores, he had no prior pig experience. After high school, he pursued a degree in ag business at nearby Hawkeye Community College and then joined a local cooperative full-time.
“I’ve always known a lot of people who worked for Iowa Select Farms as growers,” he said. “I was looking for a change of pace, and from what I knew, it seemed like a good opportunity. I really liked the idea of doing something new every day.”
Now a finishing supervisor, Trent conducts daily farm assessments, helps managers with chores, light barn repair and maintenance, ensures all farms have necessary supplies, record keeping and quite possibly the biggest job—marketing pigs.
“When you put everything we do down on paper it seems like a lot, but it’s a really fun job,” he said. “It makes a difference that you enjoy what you do when you’re getting out of bed in the morning.”
#5—Myles Promes, Low Voltage Alarm Technician
Living in a suburb of Des Moines, Myles didn’t foresee his career path pointing to livestock production until he saw an opening for a tech job with Iowa Select Farms. With a degree in technology management from the University of Northern Iowa, he was skeptical of what pig farming would offer someone like him.
“Until I was inside a farm, I didn’t realize how sophisticated they are,” he said. “Computers, phone, high speed internet and network access tie to essential functions like feeding and barn temperature, and it has to run smoothly 24/7. Even though I don’t care for the pigs in the sense of choring, I’m just as accountable for their care as anyone.”
Myles is one of five low voltage techs assigned to installation, routine maintenance and emergency support to farms across the state. This means he’s on the road most days in and around Iowa’s small towns.
What made him accept the job with Iowa Select Farms is what he still thinks is cool—that the company supports rural communities. “I’m just a small town kid from Gowrie living in Urbandale,” he said. “I get to travel across the countryside and still be a part of agriculture, and that feels good.”
#6—Madeline Doudt, Production Accounting Analyst
Madeline grew up in Indiana – but we won’t hold that against her. Music and art run in her family, but her parents encouraged her to find her own passion. In high school, she joined FFA and found herself drawn to agriculture, “the experience I had as an FFA member was a game changer,” she says.
While at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, she worked at the swine teaching and research farm while earning a degree in animal science.
Madeline’s fiancé accepted a job offer with John Deere—in Iowa, and they moved to Waukee the week following graduation. She got to work finding a job. “I knew Iowa was big into pigs, and was hopeful there would be a spot for me in the swine industry.”
In June, Madeline accepted a job offer for a production accounting position, where she’s responsible for inputting data, generating reports and providing critical information to the production leadership team. “I didn’t realize I would love the company so much,” she says. “It’s fascinating, and I’m excited for where this will take me.”
#7—Raul Romero, Gilt Developer Manager
“I’m a professional swine farm manager and I’m from Mexico,” Raul will proudly tell you.
Raul is from Guadalajara, Mexico. He’s here on a work visa, living our his passion and talent for pig farming at Iowa Select Farms. Raul wasn’t raised on a farm, but he attended the University of Guadalajara’s College of Agriculture and Biological Science. He remembers the day his college professor brought piglets to class. “I was fascinated by how curious and energetic they were,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Raul started helping his friends on their sow farm and going on swine farm field trips—even if it wasn’t his class. That immediate love for pigs propelled him to take more classes in farm business, eventually leading to a degree in animal science.
After college, Raul applied to Iowa Select Farms and got a work visa. He took a leap of faith, moving to Iowa to start a new chapter, one that has led him to being gilt developer farm manager near Osceola after some time in northern Iowa as a breeding specialist.
Raul feels right at home in Iowa—and not just because of the pigs. Even though he’s from Guadalajara, Raul is definitely Iowa nice. He’ll help anyone who needs a hand, gives back by volunteering for the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation, and serves as a firefighter in Osceola.
#8—Jordan Vansice, Farm Manager
A crop farmer to a crop and livestock farmer?
Jordan lives on a Century Farm in Marshall County near the town of Melbourne, Iowa. He’s a fifth generation farmer who recently added pig care to his responsibilities.
Jordan and his parents used to raise pigs, but got out in 1998. They made do with their income from grain and custom feeding cattle. But with the recent hard times in the grain sector, Jordan sought options. He spoke with his banker about the soil health and yield benefits of natural fertilizer, and the opportunity of managing a hog barn.
Now he’s welcomed “Hog Heaven” to his farming enterprise, a finishing farm that has slashed his commercial fertilizer costs for his crop ground and added a steady flow of income for his family.
#9—Morgan Kurimski, Newborn Pig Specialist
Morgan grew up on a farm near Albia. Her love for livestock grew from being surrounded by friends, family and neighbors who cared for livestock. She, too, wanted to have that kind of involvement, so she attended Iowa State University to study animal science. She applied with Iowa Select Farms her senior year.
Now a newborn pig specialist at Smyrna Sow Farm, she says “picking the babies up and loving on them” is her favorite part of the job. Morgan plays a big role on the farm, helping push the survival rate of newborn piglets higher by being at the ready to get them warm, dry and suckling colostrum.
Morgan says she feels proud that she has an important purpose on the farm, and when she’s out and about, she feels equally proud to help feed people. “When I go to the grocery store or a restaurant and see pork, it makes me feel good,” she said. “Being able to connect the work we do on the farm with the families who buy and eat pork is rewarding to me.”