By Celeste Baumgartner
WILMINGTON, Ohio – Part of Justin Beckner’s duties as a summer intern with the Ohio Pork Council (OPC) was to help the sows farrowing at their exhibit at the Ohio State Fair and to answer visitors’ questions as they watched the live birthing. One young family was intrigued by the process.
“They sat right behind the fence as I was helping the one sow farrow out,” Beckner said. “They kept asking question after question. They said they were sorry and didn’t want to bother me. I got some of the most out-of-this-world questions from this young family, but by the end of it, they learned so much. It was great.”
Many visitors were concerned because the pigs had big litters – one was 14 piglets. People were worried the momma pigs wouldn’t be able to feed that many babies.
“I told them the sows weigh about 500 pounds, the piglets weigh two to three pounds,” Beckner said. “They have 16 teats. They can feed the babies.”
Beckner’s adventures at the state fair were just another step in his interesting life. He is entering his third year at Wilmington College with a major in agricultural education.
They have raised hogs on his family’s farm for as long as he can remember. Justin is the son of Stephanie and Jason Beckner. Their farm is not large, but big enough for the local area. They raise show pigs and meat pigs.
“Growing up on the farm, I learned the lesson of hard work pretty quick,” Beckner said. “I think that helped me.”
Once in FFA, Beckner started his own feed business, In Pursuit Show Feeds, as a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). He ran that throughout his high school career, but as life got busier in his second year at college, he handed the business over to his family.
“I was an FFA state officer my senior year of high school,” he said. “I traveled the state doing workshops for students and FFA members. I will receive my American Degree this fall; I am excited about that.”
Beckner entered Miami University as a freshman with a major in business. One of his professors told his students to be sure they were doing what they wanted – if they were going to do this for the rest of their life, they should enjoy it. Beckner decided he really liked ag ed; that led him to switch to Wilmington College, which offers that program.
“I realized that I wanted to do ag ed, and I have been enjoying it,” he said.
That, and his farm background raising pigs, led him to the OPC internship. Each summer, OPC has two internship opportunities, one in the ag communication field and one as an education director. Typically these are short internships to help out with the state fair exhibits. But Cheryl Day, OPC’s executive vice president, likes to mold the internship to the person.
“Justin had extra characteristics, skills, and experience. We were able to use him all summer long,” Day said. “He helped me with educational programming.”
Beckner said, “This internship worked out so well for the summer; they needed someone who knew about pigs and could help in the pursuit of educating people about the pork industry.”