I am reminded of a famous quote by Canadian writer Laurence Peter: “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?”
If clutter is a measure of success, I’m thankful for the clutter because the boxes hold hundreds of files and references for articles written and proposed.
Last weekend, the offices for the company’s five agricultural titles in this division were moved. Like most companies, we have experienced some downsizing in recent years. That left some offices vacant and our corporate overseers recalculating the space allotment per employee. It’s their version of stocking density.
A couple of months ago, word came down that we would be moving from the third floor to a smaller space on the sixth floor in the same office building. At least we’re moving up in the world!
Being a bit of a pack rat, I was faced with the daunting task of paring down the contents of a cache of filing cabinets to a “more manageable” number. So, for the last month or so, I set aside a few hours each week to pore through files that dated back to the early 1970s.
I blame some of those overflowing files on a desire to preserve as much pork industry history as possible. You can imagine how difficult it’s been for me to pitch old photos; surveys of boar testing stations, industry employment trends; roundups on the development of the meat-type hog, artificial insemination, sow productivity testing; National Pork Queen Contests; the American Pork Congress and its successor, the World Pork Expo; pork checkoff rate changes and referendums; the separation agreement between the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council; Pork — the Other White Meat, Don’t Be Blah, and Pork, Be Inspired promotional campaigns; 17 years of Environmental Stewards nominations; 54 volumes in our Blueprint series; decades of swine research; and dozens and dozens of farm feature stories.
Rest assured, I did my best to save as much of the “good stuff” as I could cram into the three, five-drawer filing cabinets I was allocated. I cheated a little and scuttled a few boxes home for further sorting. Of course, we still have a full set of hard-bound copies of the National Hog Farmer dating back to February 1956, when Volume 1, Number 1 rolled off the presses in Grundy Center, IA.
Taking the purging process so seriously ultimately meant the task took much longer for me than most. Now and then, I would get caught up in reading the contents of a file only to realize an hour later that I had become so engrossed in its contents that my purging had ground to a halt.
But those intermittent breaks were helpful in reinforcing some of the industry’s victories in the last half century — the defeat of hog cholera, the pseudorabies eradication program, the nearly unfathomable success of the ‘Pork — the Other White Meat’ campaign.
These strolls down memory lane also reminded me of the resiliency of pork producers, individually and collectively, as they survived $10 hogs, $8 corn, a referendum and the constitutionality challenge of the pork checkoff program, and much more.
I subscribe to the thinking of Edmund Burke, who stated: “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.”
There is little doubt in my mind that our dynamic industry will continue to rise and meet the current challenges of housing gestating sows, the judicious use of antibiotics and, hopefully, mastery of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).
The Noble Pig
It seems fitting that this reflective mood coincides with a new set of “Masters of the Pork Industry.” As has become a tradition, the May issue features the life stories, business philosophies and visions of a half-dozen individuals who we feel have left their mark on the U.S. pork industry, each in unique ways.
In everyone’s life there are insightful moments, valuable lessons, mentors that inspire us and family and friends who sustain us when we need it most.
I think it is fair to assume that most everyone who honors our editorial efforts by reading our monthly editions and our daily posts on www.nationalhogfarmer.com have a common denominator — pigs. We breed them, feed them, care for them and write about them, each day striving to improve their efficiency in providing lean, nutritious pork for families at home and abroad. I can’t imagine a more noble profession.