COLUMBUS – Roughly 500 Ohio pork producers and their families attended the Ohio Pork Congress Feb. 10 in Columbus.
The event featured a producers’ symposium, trade show, live auction and award presentations.
More to do. According to Jennifer Keller, director of marketing and education for the Ohio Pork Producers Council, symposium attendance was up 40 percent over last year.
“Obviously, we think our changes have been very successful,” she said, referring to the council’s decision to change the location and format of this year’s event.
The congress was previously held in Dayton over two days, Keller said.
“Pork production in the state has shifted this way,” she said of Columbus. “It used to be Dayton was closer to all the farms, but now we’re finding Columbus is,” she said.
Ohio ag statistics show Mercer and Darke counties on the Indiana border as the state’s top two producers, but Wayne County has slipped into the No. 9 spot.
Wyandot and Crawford counties in north-central Ohio also made the list. Keller said neither of those were in the top 10 producing counties 10 years ago.
The council condensed the event into one day to make better use of producers’ time, Keller said.
Excellence award. Bill Isler, Marion County, received the state Pork Industry Excellence Award.
Isler has served in numerous leadership roles at the county, state and national level. He served on the Ohio Pork Producers Council board of directors from 1980-1983, as well as being a National Pork Producers Council delegate.
In 1976, he was named the Ohio Pork All-American. He has also been active in the Ohio Duroc Association, United Duroc Association and the American Yorkshire Club. He has shown champions at the World Pork Expo and Ohio and Indiana state fairs.
This award is given to a producer who has made an outstanding contribution to the swine industry.
Young producer. Greg Kaffenbarger of Clark County was recognized as the Outstanding Young Pork Producer.
Kaffenbarger operates a wean-to-finish operation including two 1,000-head finishing barns and two 500-head nurseries. He markets 6,500 head per year.
Kaffenbarger serves on the council’s board of directors and serves as swine superintendent at the Clark County Fair.
Industry service. The council honored both the Ohio Corn Marketing Program and Ohio Soybean Council with the Pork Industry Service Award.
The Ohio Corn Marketing Program helped make the first-ever holiday pork advertising possible in 1998 when market prices were low and the industry was struggling.
The corn program has co-sponsored other advertising programs and recently helped sponsor an industry image campaign and television commercial campaign.
The soybean council has sponsored the annual Taste of Elegance chef’s competition and the Ohio State Fair Pork Rib-Off.
Taste of Excellence is a professional chef’s cooking competition. This year’s winner of the event, held Feb. 9, is Matthew Langstaff of RJ Snappers in Columbus.
The council has also supported youth programs such as Swine Youth Challenge.
The council supported a newspaper ad distributed throughout the state to promote pork’s image and sponsored television commercials currently airing in the Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Lima markets.
Queen. Courtney Karshner of Clark County was crowned 2005 Ohio Pork Industry Queen. She will represent the industry at promotional events throughout the state this year.
First runner-up is Rose Dudgeon of Knox County, and second runner-up is Ashley Shroll of Crawford County.
Nine young women competed for the crown this year.
Business meeting. During a luncheon business meeting, president Jeff Benson reported on the council’s efforts to maintain a positive image for the pork industry.
“We decided last year this board is not enough people to decide the direction we’re going,” Benson said.
In the spring of 2004, roughly 75 people gathered to brainstorm what producers want and how to get there.
“We want people, when they hear ‘pork producer,’ to know that that’s another agribusiness person trying to make a living, just like they are,” Benson said.
Benson said the council’s distribution of more than a half-million fliers on pork production in the Columbus Dispatch was a good move in getting the word out.
“We’re not just people selling a stinky commodity. We have a good and tasty product to sell,” he said.
Promotions. This year the council also released two television commercials, and is gearing up to introduce new 4-by-8 foot roadside signs to promote the industry.
Executive director Dick Isler said the council may provide signs at no cost to farmers living along high-traffic corridors.
Other goals of the council are to increase legislative activity and get more legislators familiar with the industry and its concerns.
According to Isler, no checkoff funds can be used for legislative work. Auctioneer Johnny Regula sold dozens of gift certificates and items during an afternoon reception to raise funds for events the council could not fund with checkoff dollars.
Directors. Council officers for the coming year are Tony Bornhorst, president, Shelby County; Ray Noecker, president-elect, Pickaway County; and Jim Albaugh, vice president, Miami County.
Newly elected to the council’s board of directors are Jim Heimerl, Licking County; Tim Stebbins, Montgomery County; and Bill Thompson, Clinton County.
Gary Burgi, a representative for Alpharma Animal Health, is an associate director.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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