Farm Food Facts

The Common Connections Project: Collaboration Between Pork, Corn and Soy

July 13, 2021 USFRA Episode 110
Farm Food Facts
The Common Connections Project: Collaboration Between Pork, Corn and Soy
Show Notes Transcript

If there's one thing that we've learned over the past 15 months is we all have to work together. And that's why together today, we're going to talk about the common connections project. With us today is Danielle Solis, Communication Specialist at the Maschhoffs, Rochelle Krusemark USB Director and Meal Target Area Coordinator and Randy Spronk, a grain farmer. 

Phil:

Welcome to Farm Food Facts. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. If there's one thing that we've learned over the past 15 months is we all have to work together. And that's why together today, we're going to talk about the common connections project. This is a unique collaboration between pork, corn, and soy. First up is Danielle Solis , who works as a communication specialist at the Maschhoffs. Her tenure of nine years with the company has included experience in the marketing flow and transport aspect of swine movements. Her degree in integrated marketing communications, combined with her developed knowledge of the pork industry over the years has given her the desire to consistently communicate the importance of sustainable practices. Her passion for the pork industry is fueled by the company culture focused on being good stewards for the environment for consumers and for the community. Her family values aligned with that of the fifth generation family owned company. She is proud to have established her career. Solis along with her husband and two kids are established members of their local community. Rochelle Krusemark is with us and she grows commodity soybeans , high oleic soybeans, corn cover crops and races hogs, and a cow calf beef herd with her husbands sons, and daughter-in-law in Trimont, Minnesota. Her family's operational goals are to transition the farm to future generations of farmers, obviously all in her family and to serve as stewards of the land and the environment while producing crops in livestock with the efficiencies to remain sustainable. She's also a 4H leader, a church youth mentor, and is an alumni of the Minnesota agriculture Rural leadership program. Randy Spronk is a hog and grain farmer in the Edgerton Minnesota area and is also a USFRA communications specialist . So let's get started , um, for those people who might not be aware. Tell us about the previous relationship that existed between corn, pork and soy and how this partnership came to be. Um , Rochelle wanted you start with that.

Rochelle:

Um , I would say the majority of farmers that raise corn also raised soybeans just as a crop rotation. And then , um, of course the corn and soybeans are, are fed to animals, mostly poultry and pork. So it only made sense for us to collaborate and develop partnerships within the egg industry. Um, because we all have the same interests in mind.

Phil:

Danielle, when did this start? Was this as a result of the pandemic or did it start before the pandemic?

Danielle:

You know, Phil, it really started before the pandemic. This is something that our CEO Bradley Walter and our Maschhoff family has felt really very passionate about for several years. Um , we really feel that coin corn and soy are the cornerstone of any good diet for growing pig and really recognize the importance that the desire that consumers have and the supply chain process that really kind of explains that anywhere that the pork chop on their plate came from , um , and then it , then it was created in a sustainable manner. So really boiled down to , um, for really that sustainability for our consumers , um, and something that we , we really wanted to kind of have that that connection be made for them.

Phil:

So, Randy, I'm going to put you on the spot. How hard was it for everybody to work together? Because typically , uh , pre pandemic, certainly, you know, you had people who were pardon the pun, but in their own silos, they cared about their farm. They cared about their crops. They care about, you know, their pigs , uh, but they didn't talk a lot to each other. So when you all got in a room , uh, virtually , um , or, or in person, how difficult was it? What were some of the challenges?

Randy:

Um , not difficult at all. Um, soon as I'm completed with , uh , this right here, I'm actually hopping on a plane to go to Denver, Colorado. I'm actually a server on the U S meat export Federation executive committee. We're actually doing our five-year plan here and also on there's going to be representatives from corn and soybean. Obviously those checkoffs support the marketing of , uh , uh, pork worldwide. And so this is just a continuation, I think in my mind, this is really strengthening your relationship that I think corn and soybean farmers , uh , know that when, when , uh , their end users, in other words, the port farmer benefits from that increased demand. They benefit also , uh , as was stated by Danielle. Uh, obviously when we're looking for energy in our , in our diets and coming from corn, we're looking for protein, we're going to soybean. So a very symbiotic relationship and it , to me, it's , it's just a , the fruition of sustainability. What it really is.

Phil:

One of the stories that I've heard again during the pandemic is how a lot of supermarket retailers have really reached out to farmers to ranchers, to build stronger relationships, partly because what they wanted is they wanted a stronger supply chain. Uh, but partly because they wanted to know who they're buying from. Um, in, in the case of all three of you, have you had any retailers reach out to you?

Rochelle:

Yes, just recently last month , um, the Pork cCheckoff and soybeans and Coburns , um, did a partnership together and , uh, to promote, promote soy food or soy fed pork. And , uh , it was a great opportunity for, for soybean and swine farmers, which I'm both , uh , and USB to partner to , um, to highlight the health and sustainable benefits of the meat from family farms. And, you know , uh, especially here in Minnesota being a large pork producers . So , um, the campaign actually featured , um , me in the hog barn and , uh, all the efforts that, that we do on the farm, you know, for sustainability, like the pork quality assurance and , um , and, and the transportation quality assurance , uh, on the pork side that we, we are very proud that we take a lot of extra effort to make sure that we follow procedures and protocol, and just like , uh, on the crop production side, you know, we, we are , our goal is to be very good stewards of the land well producing , uh , protein and, and energy for, for the animals.

Phil:

Well, I'm glad you mentioned Coburn's I happen to know Chris Coburn well, and, you know, they, they are an exceptional retailer who really is out there and trying to not only do great for their customers and themselves , uh, but also for the community. So that's a perfect example of , of how we all need to be symbiotic. Um, what, what you're describing is really a great example of how stakeholder groups are stepping out of the box, working together towards a common vision. Um, what are some of the lessons that you've learned from working with these other industries, Randy, why don't you get us started with that ?

Randy:

I think back to your last question where we're talking about, have we had retailers reach out to us? I've had the opportunity internationally, not only in Columbia , but also the Dominican Republic to Japan, to Hong Kong, to Singapore where you're actually, yes, we're , we're promoting us pork, but because of the support from, from our , the grains, from the corn and from the soybean organizations, we have the ability to be able to do that. And so I think it's just a , a great , uh, uh, uh, how should he say tells us how, when we all work together, we can all benefit. And so I think we do have a great story to tell, we've got a story we can tell about how those crops are produced, you know, how those pigs are raised. And I think we can give confidence to that not only retailer, but to that consumer, that we're doing the right thing. And we are sustainable.

Phil:

Now , when we talk about , um, you know, especially working across , um , our borders across the U S borders to other nations , um , what are some of the metrics that we've got in place and what are some of the metrics that they're asking for , uh, for , for all three. Um, and, and how do you communicate that? Especially in certain cases , I'm sure there's some language barriers.

Danielle:

The culture at the Maschhoffs really revolves around a concept to really measure to your point about the metrics, really every part of the production process. And it, isn't difficult for us to get our hands on , on the metrics. It's something we pride ourselves in, in having benchmark , um, the efficiencies of , of sustainability and profitability , um, really are key aspects to our business. And it's something that we're not willing to sacrifice sustainability profile for , for profitability. Um, it's all about a continuous improvement culture to us. Um, it really links to our core values that we strive to make a part of our everyday practices. Um, the , the Maschhoffs family is , is very involved in the business and , um, from an export standpoint and in keeping current with, with, with where that stands and making sure that we're, we're providing that, that framework , um, and being transparent across the board from a metric standpoint.

Phil:

You know, you know, the next question I'm going to ask , um, you know, you, you implied that it's improved your operations , um, that you're making more money, hopefully as, as a result of that, having you now take what you've done and bring it to other farmers , um, in, in other , uh , commodities in other livestock and really for the future, Danielle, why don't you , why don't you start with that? And then we're showing love to hear your answer to that as well.

Danielle:

You know, we're, we're really our own best competition for that continuous improvement culture. The family has instilled a culture focusing on being the best , uh , using sustainable practices as a benchmark really allows us to only improve year over year. Um, we really strive to exceed our own expectations and our past performance and throughout the years , uh , the off family growth and development , uh, while extending its family values through its employees. So it's , it's it's production partners, customers, and within the many communities we operate. So there's, there's really something to be said about , um, you know, providing security, creating opportunities for the next generation. And , um, you know, our, our production partners strive, you know, to, to be with the best, to, to produce with the best , um, and really having something that showcases are sustainable are good stewards to the environment. Um, it's, it's contagious, it's, it's one of those aspects that, you know, producers want to partner with companies that , that practice that, and are really proud to shout it from the rooftops.

Phil:

So we're showing when you talk to other farmers , um, and they say , uh , tell us your secret, tell us your secret. You know, what, what do you want every farmer , um, to know about what you're doing and, and how it's benefited your family and your operation?

Rochelle:

I don't know that it's a really a secret Phil , but , um, all I can do is , uh, is tell our farm story, but I can also tell you that as a member of the United soybean board and the Minnesota soybean research and promotion council, that I know that , um, I'm confident that farmers really care. And we want to make sure that whether consumers are here domestically, or our products are exported. We know that , um, everything we do on our individual farms is a reflection on all of us as us farmers. And so we take great pride in what we do every day on our farms to make sure that that food is safe and that we're not doing anything on our family farms that might compromise the integrity of the food that we produce.

Phil:

So, Randy , you know, you , you mentioned a bunch of countries , um, that you all are dealing with. Are there any, are there any questions that they have that surprised you or that have made you change any of any of your procedures?

Randy:

You know, I think the best part of it is , is when they can get a dirt under his fingernails farmer, you know, from the Midwest and, and, and, and hear what reality is, how we can describe what we do has been mentioned , uh , by your fellow gas here. You know , you know, how authentic, you know, seeing a true farmer that actually is exporting that product. And I really think the relationship between corn and soybean, you know , and the proteins is going to get closer as we are transparent, as we want to show, you know, our carbon neutrality, you know, I need to understand the corn and soybean meal that I use, you know, how, what the tillage practices were used, what the fertility practices are going to be used. And so I think it's really just the transparency, the honesty and that continuous improvement, I think, is what, what they really brings it home to what we're doing each and every day back on the farm.

Phil:

You know, when you're, when you're trying to align with sustainability metrics across all these industries , um, you know, we've got farmers, we've got ranchers, we've got producers, we've got retailers, we've got, you know , everything across the supply chain. How do we include them to make sure that they're not only able to understand what we're talking about, but actively participate, and then frankly, to adapt new innovations as, as we need Danielle, what's your thoughts?

Danielle:

No , this, this partnership report really allowed us to tell our story. And throughout that, we, we took the Liberty to really showcase just two different production partner farms of how our sustainable practices are our carbon foot footprint, so to speak has been implemented. And , um, as I mentioned, we , we naturally see a gravitation of partners that want to see themselves improve, and we want to partner with those that, that practice sustainability. So it goes back to the overall theme of putting our core values into action, demonstrating how our commitment, our , our partners , commitment to our core values goes beyond words on paper, we're committed to providing the best care possible for the animals. Um , and our environment are on a wavering commitment to animal health, nutrition, welfare, and environmental stewardship. And it's, it's really rallying our, our, our producers are our partners. Um, and they have that, that same heart warming , um, care that they provide to those animals.

Phil:

So I'm not sure who's the best equipped to answer this question. So I'll, I'll leave it to the three of you to decide. But when we look at research, especially in soybean quality , uh, delivering a better feed product for poultry, for swine, for agriculture, what's, what's going on there. And if you look into your crystal ball, what is this research going to do , uh , to help feed the world?

Rochelle:

Well, I might be , uh , the one to answer that since I'm on a soybean checkoff boards . So , um, every farmer's checkoff investment is important and we have conducted a lot of research and I'd like to give a shout out to the foundation for food and agricultural research, because , uh , they partnered together to, to , uh, help fund , uh, some research about the composition of soybeans and improving protein. Um, so we listen, you know, a lot to the animal nutrition work group and to the lifestyle of producers to say, okay, what kind of , uh , characteristics would you like in the soybean? And then we fund projects to develop those hybrids. And , um, and we also funded some , some research every year. It's an ongoing project that we fund every year that farmers can send in samples , um , of their soybeans. And it comes back and tells you , uh, the protein and the essential amino acid content of the soybeans that you're producing. So we know what hybrids , um, are, are the hybrids that we should be growing , uh , because that's what the end user wants. And I think it's very important to remember that, although we're very passionate about what we produce, that we going back to the sustainability point is that we're very cognizant about the nutrients cycle. So, you know, we test that , um, those liquid nutrients from the Hawaiian pits, and we test the compost pile from our cow herd, and we apply the nutrients , uh , mostly variable rate on the land where we're going to produce that corn the next year. And so farmers are, are really , um, very, we use a lot of science to make our decisions and to only use the nutrients that that crop needs for that year and set of , um, you know, using excessive amounts that it might leach into the water supply.

Phil:

So last question for all three of you , um, on a, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most important , um, how important is science in agriculture, Randy.

Randy:

10

Phil:

Danielle.

Daneille:

10

Rochelle:

10 plus

Phil:

Love it. Well, thank you all so much for joining us today on Farm Food Facts. Um, you're all doing a great job. Uh, we appreciate this kind of collaboration, as well as every farmer, every rancher , uh, working together to make, you know, our climate better, our food better, and our world a better place. So thank you both. Thank you all so much for being one of us.

Randy:

Thank you.

Danielle:

Thank you.

Rochelle:

Thank you for having us.

Phil:

For more on all things, food and agriculture, please visit [email protected] Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USFRA until next time.