McLean County, Ill., 130 miles southwest of Chicago, isn’t known for hog production, but the largest county in the state can now boast they are home to one of America’s leading producers. Patrick Bane has been voted America’s Pig Farmer of the Year for 2018.
“We live in a day of sound bites and I hope with this honor that I will be able to spend a little more time with influential people and consumers, anybody who wants to listen, and I’ve very excited about it,” Bane says.
Bane was one of four finalists for the 2018 title. He, along with Bill Luckey, Columbus, Neb.; Brad Lundell, Kiron, Iowa; and Kevin Rasmussen, Goldfield, Iowa, were required to meet with an expert panel of third-party judges in Chicago. The judges viewed videos produced at the finalists’ farms and interviewed each candidate. Through Aug. 29, the public had the opportunity to vote once per day for their favorite finalist. The winner was then based on the judges’ scores and online voting.
Bane, who operates a 3,000-sow closed-breed-to-wean farm along with two of his brothers near Arrowsmith, Ill., wasn’t always a swine guy. He returned to the farm in 1981 after graduating from the University of Illinois in animal science. The brothers built their current farm in 1994 and 1995, and Bane, who started out as a grain farmer, devoted his career entirely to livestock in 2006.
Bane says it’s that past experience in grain farming, as well as growing up with hogs raised on pasture, that puts him at an advantage for the America’s Pig Farmer of the Year job.
“I can talk about what the benefits of that were and how that compares to the modern operations that we have today,” Bane says. “I think I’m well-versed to talk about the industry as a whole.”
Now representing 60,000-plus hog farmers across the United States, Bane wants the industry to know he is ready to step up to the position.
“I want them to know I do it everyday and I think it is important to spread the news for those who want to know about how their food is raised,” Bane says. “I’m at a point in my life where I have time to do that, which I think is important because not a lot of producers do, because as we all know it takes a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time to raise pigs and do it correctly.”
Bane says being America’s Pig Farmer of the Year is also a great opportunity to talk about the technology used to raise pigs today and the efficiencies that has created in terms of sustainability, animal comfort and the environment.
His No. 1 goal over the course of the next year is to develop industry advocates, specifically those who previously were not familiar with what hog producers do on a daily basis.
“If I can persuade them to become advocates and speak on our behalf, I think that’s critical to consumers and people to hear that outside people feel strongly about what we do and it’s a great product, it’s environmentally friendly and we treat the animals well,” Bane says. “As you know there’s people you are not going to be able to change their minds, but there’s a lot of people referred to as movable middle that I think we can affect and will help market and make the industry even more positive that it already is.”