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Fillmore County pork wagon gets new look

Fri, Oct 14th, 2011
Posted in Agriculture

Pork producers that helped out at the Deer Creek Speedway this past summer were Anne Erickson, Brian Erickson, Jean Winslow, Randy Welter, Mark Sikkink (President Fillmore County Pork Board), Jason Welter, Katie Winslow (Minnesota Pork Ambassador), Colin Winslow (a producer from Olmsted County), Myrna Welter (President Olmsted County Pork Board), Scott Winslow, Kevin Welter, Craig Mensink, Pam Mensink, Jeff Woellert, Kyle Welter, Kurt Reicks, and Randy Queensland (owner of Deer Creek Speedway). Photo submitted

The Mensink family has been a big part of Fillmore County's pork production for many years. Craig Mensink of rural Preston has been farming on his land since 1977. His father raised pigs before that, and his grandfather bought the farm in 1945.

According to Mensink, he has about 3,600 pigs on his farm. He also raises crops, and his wife Pam and a hired man help out. They have three children who grew up very much involved on the farm and 4-H, but chosen other career paths.

"I told them the farm will be there if they need it," said Mensink.

Mensink's brother Dave raises around 25,000 pigs on a farm nearby. It's pretty clear the pork business is in their blood.

Mensink is currently on the Fillmore County Pork Board and the Minnesota State Pork Board.

The pork producers in Fillmore County stay busy throughout the year, not only on their farms taking care of pigs, but with events to promote their product. The pork wagon used to sell pork products at these events was recently redecorated with a wrapping from Kelly Printing and Signs in Preston.

"The other one was getting faded," explained Mensink. "We started with a new ad campaign, and wanted to get the advertising up to date. We are trying to promote our product, and that's the best way we know how to do it."

The wagon can be seen at the annual Pork-A-Que, the Fly-In Breakfast, the Fillmore County Fair, and other events, mostly during the summer. Working at the wagon are local pork producers helping to promote their product.

"We feel we are well-supported in our county," said Mensink, referring to the people who turn out at the events to support their local farmers.

Mensink pointed out that they want people to know they give back to their communities as well. The Pork Board has two ambassadors for 2011, Ann Gillespie and Kate Winslow, both of Fountain that get scholarships this year. They also participate in farm safety, bike safety, and fire safety, and have donated food. According to Mensink, they donated 6,000 meals to local food shelves last winter, something they are very proud of.

As part of the state board, Mensink is involved in dealing with Checkoff dollars that come in from the state. He explained that Checkoff is mandatory, and that pork producers pay 40 cents for every $100 when pigs are sold to the Checkoff fund. This fund must be used for promotion, research, and education of pork products.

Research can involve many different projects involving health issues of pigs, meat safety or quality issues, and respiratory diseases. As far as educating the population, they have a program where people can be certified every three years called PQA Plus (Pork Quality Assurance).

"This helps so that you as a consumer know what we are certified out here doing what we do and we're doing a good job at it," said Mensink.

The pork producers, now with a newly decorated wagon, can serve anywhere from 800-1,000 pork chops at the Pork-A-Que, and between 4,000-5,000 pork sandwiches at the Fillmore County Fair.

Mensink and his family obviously enjoy what they do, as they have been doing it for so long. "I enjoy it very much," shared Mensink. "Part of being active on the state part is being able to see where our dollars go and to have a voice."

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