Welcome to the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of National Hog Farmer magazine, marking five decades of bringing news and production information to the pork industry.

The first edition of National Hog Farmer, Vol. 1, No. 1, was published in Grundy Center, IA, in February 1956. The eight-page newsletter was the first national paper devoted exclusively to pork producers.

On Jan. 15, 2005, National Hog Farmer published Vol. 50, No. 1, marking the beginning of the magazine's 50th Anniversary celebration.

I joined this industry-leading publication in its 18th year (January 1973), fresh out of the University of Minnesota, with a shiny new Bachelor of Science degree in animal science clutched in my hand.

I remember well the interview with newly appointed editor Neal Black. For those of you who know Neal, you can imagine that the conversation was straightforward and to the point. With very limited training in agricultural journalism, I focused on what I felt were my strong points — practical knowledge of pork production, genetics and industry contacts.

In the end (or the beginning, depending how you want to look at it), we agreed — writing wasn't my strong suit. But, thankfully, Neal was willing to take a chance on this green college kid. I remember his words to this day: “I can teach you to write, but I can't teach you the hog business.”

Now, nearly 400 issues and hundreds of stories later, I'm thankful for Neal's patience and tutoring, and for the journalistic coaching of C.R. Mitchell, first and founding editor of National Hog Farmer, and from Bill Fleming, successor to Neal and one of the best ag photojournalists ever to pick up a camera.

Not to take anything away from my alma mater but, 1973 marked the beginning of my “real” education in the art of successful pork production. The knowledge gained from thousands of miles traveled is matched by seemingly uncountable hours in seminars, hallway conversations and interviews at kitchen tables or sitting on feed sacks in a hog barn somewhere.

The tuition paid for this education is tallied in more hours of reading, studying and banging away at the keyboard — first on an old Royal typewriter, now on the electronic wizardry we call personal computers.

The beauty of the pork industry is there is always something new to learn, to write about and to convey to our readers. I can truthfully say I have never been bored.

50th Anniversary Features

Looking back, I consider how truly fortunate I've been to be able to meet many of the early pork industry leaders. Those hard-working, dedicated men and women formed the base on which our modern-day industry and governance are built.

Many of those pork producer leaders, university and extension educators, government officials and allied industry representatives are profiled in the “Who's Who in the Pork Industry” section.

I've always been a history buff — particularly pork industry history. From Day 1, I have kept files labeled “pig paraphernalia,” which contain many odds and ends, unusual facts and short stories about pigs and the people who love them. My hefty pig paraphernalia files came in mighty handy as I built the “Pork Tour-A-Rama,” a special map featuring some of the cool and amazing, pigs-in-particular places in our fair land. Those files also served me well in building the “Top 50 Events that Shaped the Pork Industry,” contained herein.

Looking Forward

Remembering our roots and reflecting on our abundant history has always served the pork industry well. But, so has the persistent, resilient nature of pork producers. The pork industry we know today is truly built on the broad visionary latitude found throughout all of its segments.

To reinforce this visionary strength, we invited some forward thinkers to share their thoughts and predictions for the pork industry through the next couple of decades. At the very least, their visions are intriguing; at the very most, they could serve as the springboard to shape and guide the pork industry in new directions.

President Lyndon Johnson, while proclaiming the challenges and responsibilities of the Great Society, once said: “It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”

It is with that thought and great appreciation that the National Hog Farmer staff invites you to join us in celebrating 50 years of service to the most dynamic industry in U.S. agriculture.

To each of you, we extend our humble thanks for inviting us into your homes and offices, your hog operations and your pickup trucks to gather the editorial material we deliver in our pages each month. We remain in your debt.