Monica Dodge Celebrates 20 years with Iowa Select Farms
Congratulations to Monica Dodge for celebrating 20 years with Iowa Select Farms!
Although a lot has changed over the years, the one thing that has remained the same is Monica’s passion for animals.
“Anyone who knows me knows I love animals and have an acreage full of them,” she laughed. “I have a herd of horses, enough cats to make me “the crazy cat lady”, a couple of chickens—a duck that thinks she’s a chicken—two dogs and five puppies. Caring for pigs is my full-time job, but I definitely have another full-time job at home.”
Monica initially joined the Iowa Select Farms team as a farrowing assistant at Kielsmeier Sow 12. At first, she was intimated at the idea of caring for so many sows and piglets, but she quickly got used to it and couldn’t help but think about the animals 24/7.
“Even on my days off I would think about our sows and how they were doing,” she said. “I guess I just love working with animals and being able to both care for them while making a difference in the lives around me by producing a wholesome product. There’s a lot of pride in that.”
Back in 2000, it was common practice for sow farms to have onsite gilt developers (GDUs). After nearly six years rotating between the farrowing and breeding departments at Sow 12, Monica started to spend her weekends working at the farm’s GDU. In 2006, she transferred there full-time and alongside manager Chris Bessman, cared for gilts at three other farms. Over time, they shifted to Balvanz North and South GDU’s to breed for Sow 7, then Grouse GDU to breed for Sow 14 and Mott GDU when it became a filtered farm. Today, Monica and Chris manage ISO pork, a 7,200-head farm that supplies gilts for Sows 12, 13, 14 and 25.
“Over the years, there have been two evolutions that really stand out to me,” she said. “The increase in total born in our gilts and the use of computers in our daily record keeping instead of faxing or scanning information in.”
Other major changes Monica has seen have been increased biosecurity efforts (and as a result, herd health), animal well-being and transparency with the public. Some of her fondest memories are of the team she started with at Sow 12, many of whom are still with the company.
“Every farm I’ve worked at taught me a lot; I’ve worked with many wonderful employees and managers,” she said. “Being able to do a job that I love with people I admire is really cool. We are feeding the world, not everyone can say that.”
Outside of work, Monica enjoys spending time in her garden, tending to flowers, reading and spending time with Chris and their son, Rafe. They also enjoy time with their moms and siblings.
“Iowa Select Farms has been good to us and our family over the years,” she reminisced. “I’ve been fortunate to work on some very influential projects with amazing, strong teams. The company continues to give me chances to grow and I look forward to all that the future has in store.”