“There is no doubt that the bustling of a big city is an alien planet compared to my now fairly quiet farm life.” wrote Erin Brenneman in one of her first blog posts for PORK magazine.
This animated former city girl had always loved animals, but her experience was mostly limited to the indoor type. After all, you don’t have pigs, cows or horses when you grow up within minutes of Chicago O’Hare International Airport. And meat came from the grocery store, not from the farm, she thought. But then she attended Iowa State University, where her life would make a pivotal turn.
She met a young man named Tim Brenneman and they started dating.
“He would travel from Ames to Washington, Iowa, every single weekend to go to work and I never understood why,” Brenneman wrote in a blog. “It most definitely sparked my curiosity. What could be so attractive to a college student to want to skip the weekend to go home and work? So of course we started seeing more of each other, and I eventually began to tag along with him.”
She was blown away, as she wrote in this 2014 blog post:
“I remember one morning weaning pigs into the nursery with Tim and his uncle. We were climbing into the pens with hundreds of plump little weaned pigs and sorting them down by size in a 100°F room, all while his uncle sang some goofy song at the top of his lungs. I thought to myself, “This is what you do for a living? This is your job?” That’s when it dawned on me, how little my generation and the people I grew up with know about our food and where it comes from. I had never really thought about it until I was here and experienced it firsthand. There are so many people who go to the farm and pour their soul into raising these animals day-in and day-out for a living so that I can eat affordable and safe food,” she continues.
“I had no reason to ever drive past a farm for 18 years of my life, but I found the farrowing house and have been there ever since,” she says.
Long story short, the city girl married her pig farmer, long before The Bachelor made it popular. She found her life’s passion and became part of a family that readily embraced her: It’s easy to sense the pride and admiration her in-laws, Rob and Char Brenneman, have for Erin as they tell of her accomplishments.
As much as she loves the city, she took to farming the way a duck takes to water, and she wanted to give other people a realistic sense of modern agriculture.
“We all need to do what we do best,” she says, and one thing Brenneman does better than most is share her story through social media. In part, it’s because she loves what she does and wants to tell other people about it, but it’s also because she knows how far removed most people are from the farm. Their perspective is similar to what hers had been growing up, and it’s created a dangerous disconnect that could negatively impact agriculture. That’s why more farmers need to actively share their stories with consumers.
Click below to see a variety of images Brenneman shares on social media to tell others about modern farming practices.
Read more about Erin Brenneman:
This article was featured in the May 2018 issue of Farm Journal's Pork.