By Matt Reese
Back in 2019, when Dave Shoup of Wayne County was serving at the Ohio Pork Council president, he had this to say about the group of award winners being recognized at the Pork Congress that year.
“Every year we present these awards and we’re fortunate in the state of Ohio to have such deserving people. There are so many people the young folks in this industry can look up and strive to be like in the years to come and serve the industry in a tremendous way,” Shoup said. “None of these families or individuals do this for the award. They do it for the industry. That is what has made them what they are — humble people promoting pork, watching out for the best interest of the industry and trying to help the industry move forward to represent ourselves very well to the consumers.”
Shoup’s comments were accurate back in 2019 and have now come full circle as he is being recognized as this year’s Industry Excellence Award winner on Feb. 7. Here are the other 2023 award winners recognized at the 2024 Ohio Pork Congress.
The Ohio Pork Industry Service Award goes to an individual who exemplifies outstanding service, exceeding volunteer expectations, and willing to support the pork industry in numerous ways. This year, the Ohio Pork Council recognized Tom Blankenship, Morrow County, with these 2023 honors.
Blankenship is a lifelong member of the Morrow County Pork Producers organization and a lifelong supporter of Ohio’s pork industry with his wife Pam by his side. His dedication to supporting the pork industry through his wisdom and service truly exemplifies expectations from the organizations and individuals he works with. Blankenship’s dedication to serving the pork industry often means you can find him involved with the youth of the industry as a mentor, including his most recent involvement with the success of the Cardington FFA Pig Project and the 2023 Ohio State Fair Land & Living Birthing Center.
As a mentor, Blankenship uses his over 40 years of experience raising pigs and being involved in the industry to give a wealth of guidance, skills, and resources to the next generation of pork producers. When he is not in the barn assisting youth in learning proper animal care and husbandry, he can be found behind a grill or smoker prepping and cooking pork for thousands of Morrow County and state fair attendees, and at the countless other events Blankenship participates in each year. For him, it isn’t just about spending the time behind the grill. He is a champion of teaching and educating on proper pork cooking methods including the 145-degree messaging.
The Pork Promoter of the Year Award is given to an individual or company that excels in promoting the pork industry. This year, the Ohio Pork Council honored Madison Adams, Crawford County, as the Pork Promoter of the Year.
Adams’ love for agriculture and animal care landed her a career in the pork industry, where she has been employed for seven years. Her time in the barn quickly led her to be introduced to Ohio Pork Council’s Virtual Field Trip Program where Madison began assisting in the hosting of Virtual Field Trips. Over time, Madison’s assistance with the OPC program resulted in her becoming one of the main hosts for the Virtual Field Trips, which took advantage of her knowledge of pork production and her innate ability to successfully educate viewers repeatedly.
Adams excels in promoting the industry and never shies away from a chance to tell her positive pig farming story with Virtual Field Trip viewers. With her can-do attitude, she has begun using her knowledge and experience to train new field trip hosts. Whether it is sharing animal care processes, teaching about environmental stewardship, or simply answering viewers’ questions, Adams has taken the opportunity to use her voice to promote an industry she loves.
The Ohio Pork Council Swine Manager of the Year is Pat Dirksen, who lives in Rossburg, with his wife and four children. This award recognizes a leader of a swine operation who is highly knowledgeable of the pork industry and has demonstrated the ability to make key decisions on behalf of their operation.
Dirksen grew up on a family farm where his passion for agriculture truly began to take shape. Throughout the years, he has held a variety of career roles in the ag industry, including hauling pigs, working for Sunrise Co-op, and eventually becoming the swine manager for Thompson Farms for seven years. During his time with Thompson’s, he assisted with the tremendous growth of the farm, and logged countless hours assisting contract growers with new barn designs, construction protocols, feed trials, and every other aspect of their operations.
Dirksen’s career has taken him through just about every corner of the pork industry, and his experience and knowledge are greatly coveted. His care and compassion for the people, pigs, and planet does not go unnoticed. His passion for his job and the betterment of the pork industry has helped to shape the next generation of leaders. Dirksen his wife, and four kids reside in Rossburg, Ohio.
The work of the Ohio Pork Council is made possible by supporters who devote time to enhance the organization’s efforts on behalf of all producers. To acknowledge their efforts and express gratitude, OPC established the Friend of Ohio Pork Industry Award. This award recognizes an individual, organization, or company making a substantial impact on the organization through monetary support, voluntary activities, or general support to the pork industry. This year, the Ohio Pork Council honored AgCredit with the award.
AgCredit has been a longtime supporter of the Ohio Pork Council. Through their support and contributions, AgCredit has provided countless hours and resources for the betterment of the Ohio pork industry and Ohio Pork Council’s programs, such as the OH-PIGS Program. The organization’s support is among the most prominent and has truly shaped the work of the Ohio Pork Council over the years.
This year, like every year with those being recognized by Ohio’s agricultural organizations, award winners are linked by the common bond of a focus on service toward others. Shoup’s comments from 2019 and efforts earning him this year’s recognition stem from a love of the swine industry and his personal faith.
“In 1983 I went to veterinary school and worked with Dr. Bill Ingalls, the OSU State Swine Extension veterinarian. Bill was a really good mentor and we developed a close friendship. One day he asked in our swine medicine class, ‘How many of you really want to be here?’ I was the only one who raised my hand. Everybody else was in the class because it was a requirement at the time,” Shoup said.
After vet school, Shoup went into private practice for several years before eventually returning to the family hog operation in 1996, working with his brothers on the farm. Shoup got involved in the Ohio Pork Council in 2010 with the encouragement of then executive director Dick Isler and has been serving the industry in a variety of ways ever since. He’s served as a board member, on the Producer Education Committee, Swine Health Committee and as President in 2019 and 2020. He has served on the National Pork Producers Council Swine Health Committee.
“I’ve gone to the National Pork Industry Forum as a delegate for about 10 years. It’s always nice to meet people from other states,” Shoup said.
He also enjoys going to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders. Currently, Shoup represents the swine industry on Congressman Max Miller’s Ag Advisory Council and makes sure the swine point of view is heard. The farm works with officials on the local level as well.
“Our farm sponsored an event for the local commissioners, state representatives and township officials to develop relationships but also to update them on the sustainability of hog farms, manure application, and modern hog and crop farming,” Shoup said. “We’ve also invited food bloggers to tour our farm to promote pork on social media. We have hosted congressional staff and state legislators for farm tours.”
Now, whether he is advocating for the industry he loves, teaching Sunday school with his wife or working on the farm alongside his family, Shoup keeps his focus on service to others.
“You know, being farmers, it’s pretty easy to get isolated at times. You have to remember God is good all the time. God is in control of all things and while this industry has a lot of challenges, it also provides many blessings for families, friends, and employees. There are challenges coming at us all the time, and I’m not just talking about on the state or national level, but on our own personal farms,” Shoup said. “We came into this world with nothing and in the end, you’ll leave with nothing. All you do in between is serve others, build relationships, and make a living — my dad taught me that years ago. If you live focused on yourself, it’s not going to be a fulfilling life. You get up every day and keep going. You live for and try to provide for others and be satisfied that you did what God wanted you to do that day and that you represented Him well.”