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Content provided by Minnesota Pork Board | Farm Journal’s Pork

The Minnesota Pork Board recognized individuals and families who have made significant contributions through pork promotion, consumer and producer education, youth mentoring and service to the pork industry at its annual Awards Reception on January 27 in Minneapolis, according to a board release.

This year’s award recipients are:

  • Distinguished Service: Gary Koch, Sleepy Eye
  • Environmental Steward: Craig Holm, New Ulm
  • Family of the Year: Hugoson Family, Granada
  • Pork Promoter of the Year: Dale and Lori Stevermer, Easton
  • Swine Manager of the Year: Tim Kerkaert, Marshall

Read more about each recipient below.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual or group who has contributed to the long-term success of Minnesota pig farmers. Winner Gary Koch grew up on a diversified farm in Hampton, Iowa, then began his career in Sioux City, Iowa, then changed directions when he joined Gislason and Hunter in 1984. Koch worked with farm credit institutions and farmers to establish agreements allowing modified loan payments, facilitated orderly and timely liquidation to prevent further collapse of the farm economy.

In 1989, Koch crossed paths with Bob Christensen when the markets began to turn, and the pork industry went into expansion mode. Many of the templates that exist today were created by the duo including feed tolling agreements, packer agreements, and grower contracts, to name a few.

Along with helping farmers build their businesses, Koch, Christensen and other producers established the Triumph Foods packing plant in Missouri in 2004.

Currently serving as Vice Chair on GreenSeam’s board directors, Koch devotes a significant amount of time trying to help consumers understand the truth of agriculture.

To learn more about Gary Koch, click here.

The Environmental Steward Award recognizes an individual and/or operation demonstrating the positive contributions pig farmers make to the natural environment.

This year’s honoree, Craig Holm, grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of New Ulm with pigs and steers along with raising corn and soybeans.

In 2001, After a decade working with machines in a shop near New Ulm, and coming home to help with chores in the evening, Holm started his own pig farming career. Being a short 10 miles from Christensen Farms headquarters seemed to be a prime location to begin, so he chose the building site, received his permits, and built three confinement barns.

At the time, there were few modern barns in the area. He notes the first time his dad walked into the building he said, “This is how pigs should be raised. No question about it. It is so much easier on them being out of the cold, ice and snow, which Minnesota winters bring.”

During his first five years pig farming, Holm raised gilts. These early years brought about steadfast disease tracking and implementation of biosecurity practices. From his first year to present time, Holm points out the difference he has seen over the years in overall pig health and livability rates, which he appoints major credit to the biosecurity practices put into place.

Since those early years, Holm switched gears and now finishes pigs, where he continually seeks out new practices to help his business succeed while also keeping his environmental footprint at the forefront of his mind. The implementation of water pans in his barns this past year has proven to be a successful investment on a multi-faceted front. In one regard, the pans have cut the farm’s water usage in half.

To learn more about Craig Holm, click here.

The Family of the Year Award honors a farm family who has contributed to the long-term success of Minnesota’s pig-raising traditions.

Fourth generation pig farmer, Kevin Hugoson, grew up farming with his father and took over the 250 sow farrow-to-finish farm with his wife, Mary, in 1985. Growth over the years provided the opportunity for their two children, Angie and Eric, and their families to come back to the farm and be involved.

“I am most proud of the fact that our kids have chosen to come back to the farm,” states Kevin. “Our kids are the fifth generation to be involved with this farm, and being able to continue to have further generations on the farm is really exciting.”

It was a two-man show in the beginning and from there the farm continued to progress. Kevin handled the production side of the business with hands-on work and spending time in the barns. At that point in time, the farm was quite traditional in that all employees were involved in almost everything; this has evolved to a more modern approach where each employee’s duties are specialized. Now, Kevin spends much of his time working with the management team and managing people.

For the better portion of two decades, Mary’s duties were primarily in the office spanning from accounting to record-keeping, and HR to payroll until 2008 when Angie began her career at the family farm.

Today, Angie oversees operations by analyzing current business practices to make sure they are efficient and aligned with the farm’s strategic plan and vision.

After graduating college with his business degree, Eric returned home in 2011 and spent time in different facets of production where he currently spends most his time on wean-to-finish operations. His responsibilities range from grower relations to contracts and audits to biosecurity practices.

To learn more about the Hugoson family, click here.

The Pork Promoter of the Year Award highlights an individual, couple, or family who has done an outstanding job promoting pork products and the raising of pigs.

Some may consider the 2020 Pork Promoters of the Year a ‘Pork Promoting Power Team’, but for Dale and Lori Stevermer, promoting pork and advocating on behalf of pig farmers is a lifelong passion they feel privileged to share with each other and their three kids, Brett, Adam, and Beth.

Growing up on farms in Southern Minnesota, Dale and Lori Stevermer have supported each other’s engagement in the pork industry which has resulted in opportunities at the county, state, and national levels.

With a young family at home, Dale first committed to supporting the industry through his six year involvement in the Faribault County Pork Producers serving as president during his tenure. Thereafter, he transitioned to the state level where he later served as president of the Minnesota Pork Board.

Then, Lori became more involved at the state level by first serving on the Promotion and Image and Pork Congress committees.

From there, Lori was nominated to run for a position on the Minnesota Pork Producers Association board of directors. Lori spent nine years on the MPPA board, serving two terms as president during her tenure. In 2019 Lori was elected to serve on behalf of Minnesota pork producers on the National Pork Producers Council board of directors.

Throughout their involvement, the Stevermer’s witnessed an evolution in events over the years. Instead of solely focusing on grilling, handing out samples, and answering elementary questions about pork, the ideology behind consumer-focused events shifted. Lori believes the primary reasoning for this shift was due to more targeted events, such as Oink Outings, where consumers have the opportunity to ask harder, more in-depth questions concerning farming practices and animal health.

Many will recognize the Stevermer’s from public-facing marketing campaigns both at the state and national levels. From billboards to Minnesota Pork’s traveling trailer and from the Pig 3D project to the #RealPigFarming video featuring their family’s love for running, the Stevermer’s have been humbled to represent Minnesota pig farmers.

To learn more about Dale and Lori Stevermer, click here.

The Swine Manager of the Year Award distinguishes an employee (non-owner) who excels in the management and care of pigs.

Equipped with an agricultural background growing up on a hobby farm outside of Marshall, Minnesota, consisting of a handful of pigs and cattle, Kerkaert always enjoyed life on the farm. During the summers and on weekends, he frequented his grandparents farm, now the home farm for Boerboom Ag, and stayed involved showing pigs and cattle for 4-H.

Kerkaert’s path to his current position as a Wean to Finish Service Manager at Boerboom Ag was a bit unconventional and not entirely where his 20-year old self pictured him ending up. His education at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), where he graduated with a degree in business management and minor in agricultural business, originally led him to start his career in finance.

Two decades ago, when he came back to the world of pig farming, Boerboom Ag was in the process of expanding the business. Kerkaert saw the opportunity to come back, and was thrown right in, having the chance to oversee some of the sites.

Today, Kerkaert manages grow-to-finish sites, overseeing approximately 65,000 pig spaces. At each of the sites, he communicates with the contract growers and makes sure they all have the necessary tools and information needed to succeed.

When Kerkaert first began working with the company, the ratio of his work equated to 90 percent managing pigs and 10 percent managing people; today, the ratio has essentially flipped, being closer to 80 percent managing people and 20 percent managing pigs. He spends most of his time working with the marketing management team, employees, contract growers, and on building projects.

 To learn more about Tim Kerkaert, click here.