The National Pork Board has selected the four finalists in its newest contest, America's Pig Farmer of the Year.
The contest honors the U.S. pig farmer who best excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and is best able to share his or her farming story with the American public.
"The four finalists represent the diverse pork industry in the United States," said National Pork Board President Derrick Sleezer. "They all have shown a focus on environmental sustainability, animal welfare and continuous improvement."
The 2015 finalists are:
• Steve Kerns – Clearfield, Iowa
• Marti Knoblock – Rock Rapids, Iowa
• Keith Schoettmer – Tipton, Ind.
• Lauren Schwab – Somerville, Ohio
A five-member panel of judges on Tuesday reviewed videos produced at the finalists' farms and conducted an in-person interview with each of them.
The panel includes Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association; Carlos Saviani, vice president of the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. food team; Mitzi Dulan, a registered dietitian and a nationally recognized nutrition and wellness expert to the Kansas City Royals; Chris Soules, a farmer from Arlington, Iowa, and television star from The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars; and Jodi Sterle, an associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University and a nationally known youth advisor in livestock exhibition.
Through Sept. 10, the public can vote once a day per person/email address for their favorite finalist online. The winner will be announced Oct. 7.
Meet the finalists >>
Steve Kerns: Founded in 1966, Kerns Farms started as a 4-H project and has grown into a full-scale seedstock operation. Steve and Becky Kerns manage their farm with the help of sons, Karl and Matt, as well as three employees. They market 10,000 pigs annually, with the 320-acre farm's facilities including hoop barns, open lots and curtain-sided and mechanically ventilated barns.
Marti Knoblock: Knoblock is one of the family owners of GMC Farms, located near Rock Rapids, Iowa. Founded in 1980, GMC Farms is co-owned by Marti and his brothers, Mitch Knoblock and Morris Metzger. GMC Farms raises pigs in modern slatted, curtain-sided barns with deep pits and markets 23,000 pigs annually. The family also raises corn, soybeans and cattle.
Keith Schoettmer: Keith and Darla Schoettmer founded Schoettmer Prime Pork in 1987. The farm has grown steadily over the years despite many changes in the pork industry. Today, they raise 22,000 pigs annually on the farrow-to-finish farm with the help of eight full-time employees.
Lauren Schwab: Schwab proudly works as a second-generation farmer on the 230-acre farm founded in 1977 by her father, Jeff. The farrow-to-wean farm is home to 12 independent barns that house 1,100 sows. The modern barns provide the proper environment for the sows, which are individually cared for and observed daily to assess their needs. The sows produce about 30,000 piglets a year, which are then sold to other farmers for finishing.
Source: National Pork Board