FAYETTE TOWNSHIP, JUNIATA COUNTY, Pa. -- It’s certainly not the easiest or the cleanest job by any stretch, but someone has to do it. A local pig farmer from Juniata County is being honored for just how well he raises his hogs.
"Pigs are very loving. They can be very mischievous as well," said Hoffman.
Hoffman began working with them when he was just a teen.
“I started working for a feed company in pigs, and within a year, I was managing an 850 sows. I was 19-years-old, managing a couple million dollar farm operation," he told FOX43.
A first-generation farmer then, now Hoffman is Vice President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
He is also the owner Lazy Hog Farm in Fayette Township, Juniata County where there are 10 times as many pigs being raised every year than people even living in the township.
Each year, Hoffman raises 35,000 market hogs; each weighs a whopping 280 pounds.
“There was a lot of bacon eating across the country," joked Hoffman. “From this farm, 35,000 pigs a year, and there is bellies on all of them.”
According to agriculture officials, Hoffman is doing a very good job.
After being nominated by his wife, an audit for animal health, safety and management practices, and a series of rigorous interviews, voters weighed in, selecting Hoffman as America's Pig Farmer of the Year.
Hoffman received the highest score in third-party judging and online voting for his industry leadership, his focus in raising pigs following the We Care ethical principles and his commitment to connecting consumers and farmers.
“Of all the great pig farmers out there, to be able to be selected as the pig farmer of the year is very humbling," he told FOX43. “You just set out to do the best thing for your family, your farm, your animals, and the consumer.”
He says it’s a big win for the Commonwealth because Pennsylvania isn’t even on the top 10 list of pig producing states.
“Like something I never would have thought possible," explained Hoffman.
As America's Pig Farmer of the Year, Hoffman will travel throughout the nation speaking at engagements over the next year. He's focusing on education.
“I’ve asked some school aged kids, ‘what do you call a baby pig?’ and they say, ‘Oinklet’….So you truly realize that their knowledge of agriculture is only what they hear and what their told," he said. "When I dress up and go see a senator or a house member, and you wear a suit and tie and stop in at the local restaurant before you go, they can't understand the fact a farmer has a suit... We're business people. Your farm is a farm, a family farm, but we're business people and our issues are important to us and the consumer."
He wants to help answer questions, like where does pork come from and how do pig farmers care for their pigs?
“A lot of third graders think their food comes from Walmart," explained Hoffman.
He also wants to start a national conversation about pig farming and teach our nation's leader about farmers' commitment to always do the right thing for their animals.
“I want to sit down with the president and talk about agriculture because that’s much needed. He’s not a farmer," explained Hoffman.
Neither are we, so Hoffman gave us an inside look -- even taking our FOX43 cameras inside the pig pens.
Before we could go inside, our cameras had to be cleaned, and we had to strip down and shower.
Biosecurity at pig farms is very important. Pigs are susceptible to illnesses, like African Swine Fever, and farmers take it seriously.
900 piglets are born at the Lazy Hog Farm every week.
We went inside their pens and waited for the piglets to calm down. Like clockwork, within minutes, they were climbing all over us and our cameras.
“If you actually come sit down in the pen, they will run away for the first two-three minutes, and then, they can’t help themselves," Hoffman told us.
Being inside the pens isn’t so bad; there are plastic floors with holes so the pigs can go to the bathroom, and the pens have a climate-controlled environment.
For piglets, it’s set at a toasty 85 degrees which keeps them happy and, more importantly, healthy.
“Really, because our pigs are always here, we want to keep them as disease free, as healthy as possible," explained Hoffman.
That means keeping track of and even isolating the sick ones.
“If they get sick, we individually treat them; they don’t have to pay for healthcare," laughed Hoffman.
The piglets weigh between 2-3 pounds at birth but grow rapidly over 26 weeks. They’ll move from pen to pen based on their size before they’re sold on the market at nearly 300lbs.
“They have all the food they can eat; they have all the water they need," said Hoffman.
Whether overseeing the farm or flying to different states and educating the next generation of farmers, Hoffman says it's a lot of fun. He's happy to continue educating the public over the next year in his role as America's Pig Farmer of the Year.
Still, he says he couldn't do it without his family, the workers at Lazy Hog Farm, and everyone else who has contributed at the farm.
“The better the team around you, the better chance of success, and that’s what allows me what we do today," he said.
Hoffman’s achievement is drawing accolades from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
“Pennsylvania is very proud of him on his accomplishments and proving that we are one of the leaders in the nation when it comes to agriculture," said Greg Hostetter, with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
According to the National Pork Board, to win the award, the pig farmer must represent the very best in agriculture. The honor is awarded annually to the pig farmer who best demonstrates and lives by the We Care ethical principles.
The winner is asked to share his or her story of pig farming with the American public while representing all pig farmers and will:
• Receive 24/7 support from the National Pork Board for all communications activities, travel logistics and expenses.
• Spend no more than 15 days total away from the farm from Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2020.
• Receive a $15,000 honorarium to help compensate for time away.