NEW YORK – The National Pork Board has named Keith Schoettmer, a Tipton, Ind., pig farmer, the first-ever America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. The new award was created to help honor an American pig farmer who raises pigs using We Care ethical principles as well as someone who connects with consumers.

The We Care initiative was launched in 2008 as a joint effort of the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council and state organizations representing farmers. According to the website, “We Care is a proactive, multifaceted initiative to promote responsible practices in all areas of farming and is a commitment to continuously evaluate and improve our methods.” 

“We are pleased to have Keith represent America’s pig farmers, and we look forward to the dialog he will create as he travels around the country,” said Derrick Sleezer, National Pork Board president and pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “It’s important that we connect with today’s consumers about how we raise their food in an ethical and transparent way. Keith’s interest in sharing his farm’s story – and putting a face on today’s pig farming – will help us reach this goal.”

Schoettmer Prime Pork was founded in 1987 by Schoettmer and his wife Darla. The family farm now raise about 22,000 pigs annually.

“I’m honored to receive this award from the National Pork Board,” Schoettmer said. “I couldn’t do what I do every day without the help of family and employees, so this award signifies a collective recognition of what we do every day on the farm to care for our pigs, our people and the planet.”

The selection process to name the first winner of America’s Pig Farmer of the Year included passing a third-party audit of on-farm practices and going through a series of written and oral interviews conducted by subject-matter experts. According to the National Pork Board, Schoettmer was recognized for excellence in all aspects of pig farming, including animal care, environmental stewardship, employee work environment and outstanding community service.

The panel of judges met in early September with the final four finalists. The panel included Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association; Carlos Saviani, vice president of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) US 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 a television star from The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars; and Dr. Jodi Sterle, an associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University and a nationally known youth advisor in livestock exhibition.

Schoettmer said, “I am proud of the hard work my fellow farmers put into producing safe, high-quality food. I look forward to sharing my personal farm story with consumers to help them understand the care that goes into today’s pork production.”

To learn more about Schoettmer’s farm and the America’s Pig Farmer of the Year Award,