Gracie Greiner grew up showing animals with her local 4-H Club, but it was the pigs she always felt a special connection to. Now, Greiner will spead her passion for pork across the state as the 2019 Iowa Pork Queen.
Greiner began showing pigs and goats in her 4-H Club, the Franklin Cubs, in the fourth-grade. She said she got started because of encouragement from her dad.
“My dad used to raise pigs for 10 years when we were younger so that was one of the animals he really wanted us to show,” she said, explaining 4-H is a family affair.
Between the two animals, Greiner said she felt pulled to work with pigs more than goats because she felt an emotional connection to them after raising them.
“Every year I’ve had at least one pig that is my favorite,” she said. “It’s really cool to see the whole process on your own farm. That’s why I think I continue doing it.”
In December 2018, she sent in her application for the Iowa Pork Youth Leadership Team Contest. Sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the youth team is made up of the Pork Queen and two ambassadors who travel around the state promoting pork.
A friend of hers was previously involved and encouraged her to apply. On Jan. 22 and 23, Greiner spent her days competing during the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines. At the end of the event, two ambassadors and the Iowa Pork Queen are chosen to represent the pork industry at various events and fairs for the rest of the year.
The two-day competition included challenges such as a video interview, a skill-a-thon, a written quiz, an interview with judges and a speech she had to give in front of all participants.
She said the interviews were mainly casual talks with the judges where she talked about herself, her background and why she had an interest in serving on the team. The skill-a-thon and quiz were geared toward knowledge of swine, farming and various questions about the industry.
For Greiner, the most nerve-wracking part was the speech. Of the 26 topics in the hat, she was to choose three from a blind draw. From there she was to choose one to speak about.
The topic she chose was about how she would start a positive conversation with a friend who told her she was a vegetarian. After 30 minutes, she walked on stage and gave her three-to five-minute speech.
“I kind of just started talking,” she said about combating her nerves in the room of more than 20 youth and adults. “I was kind of relieved to see people I knew because they would smile at me and reassure me that I was doing OK.”
At the end of the two-day competition, Greiner was crowned the Iowa Pork Queen and will serve on the youth council with two other ambassadors. Together the trio will travel all over Iowa promoting pork and even take a special trip to Washington, D.C., something she is looking forward to because she wants to promote the pork industry in a climate where it is not traditionally talked about.
“I think it’s important because a lot of people don’t know what we do and they see all of these misconceptions either on social media or the news ... and they think that the pork industry is bad and we’re hurting animals and we’re not raising them right, so that’s why I think it’s important to show them that we care a lot about our animals, especially in weather like this,” she said, referencing the polar vortex Washington saw last week.
Being a young person chosen to represent Iowa Pork is not lost on her either. Greiner said she recognizes the responsibility but is welcoming to the opportunities and challenges she may face.
“I think a lot of people, when they see younger people promoting the industry, it excites them and makes them feel hopeful for the next generation to come up and be in their spot,” she said. “I’m just really excited to go meet a whole bunch of new people.”