Pardon for a pig
By Trent Loos
Every Thanksgiving when the president pardons a turkey or two, I cringe at the notion and comment, “Turkeys are for food, why are we pardoning them?” While I still agree with that notion, I recently made a trip to Omaha with a spotted boar pig for just that reason.
When we were contacted by the Salvation Army in Omaha and asked to provide a pig for this event, we mulled it over for a while. The Salvation Army is hosting Baconfest Omaha as a fundraiser for their scholarship program. Their marketing ploy for getting locals to their event revolved around this crazy idea of gathering some media and getting Mayor Jean Stothert to “save this pig’s bacon.” While pardoning a food animal doesn’t line up well with our beliefs, we decided that the opportunity to make contacts in this urban mecca and educate some city folks about farming outweighed the negatives. Furthermore, if we didn’t bring the pig, somebody else would and this opportunity to share our story of food production would be lost. And who couldn’t support an event called “BaconFest”?
Early Monday morning we loaded a 35-pound spotted boar pig into the truck and headed east. The pardoning ceremony was set for 2 p.m. but as a little added media bonus, we were supposed to have the pig at KFAB radio studio at 9:30 a.m. for an interview. Yes, he squealed on cue when I held him upside down. The ladies in the studio couldn’t stop petting him and commenting on how cute he was while the men just complained about the smell. It’s a pig for Pete’s sake—what did they expect? According to the organizers, the radio gig was a solid home run.
We were the first to arrive at the Civic Center Plaza downtown and I used my media badge to park right up front where they have parking readily available to media expressly for the purpose of such press conferences. This would make it a short walk to pack the pig and also give the media a firsthand look when they pulled in to park. Within minutes, there were cameras and microphones emerging from vehicles all along the street. The walked up to the truck and started videoing and photographing “Sal,” the soon-to-be-famous pig temporarily named in honor of the Salvation Army.
A few minutes before 2 p.m., Mayor Stothert came down from her office. While we expected her to pat the pig on the nose, pardon him and move on; we were in for a little surprise and a literal media frenzy. The mayor, the first-ever female mayor of Omaha, wearing a dress and high heels, asked to hold the pig. Once she had the pig in her arms, people went crazy. Now I know how Justin Beiber feels when the paparazzi surround him. Every person on the plaza with a cell phone, camera or video camera rushed her to get a close-up of this lady snuggling up to a pig.
Jean Stothert is not your typical city gal by any means. She joked about how she thought her son weighed about that much when he was born! She didn’t act squeamish or in a rush to pass him back to me. When she did, she just brushed the straw off the front of her dress and moved on. This might actually be a politician I could like and respect. According to the locals, she is shaking things up in the big city since she took the reins. That’s got to be a good thing.
The pardoning ceremony lasted just a few short minutes. Folks gathered were reminded of the good works of the Salvation Army and how their help is needed to keep this program going. The details of BaconFest were unveiled and “Sal” got his official pardon from Mayor Stothert. When it was all over, kids and adults alike clamored around Sal to rub and pat him. He seemed to care less and was just glad to be back in the truck with a pan full of feed and water once we finally pulled away from the Plaza.
By the time the 6 p.m. news hit the air waves, we had people calling and texting to let us know that they saw the pardon on TV. It was carried by four local television stations, several radio outlets and even the Omaha World Herald. It just seems crazy to me that such a thing could garner so much attention but clearly our city cousins are seeking opportunities to get a glimpse, a smell and a touch of a real farm.
Yes, “Sal” is safe and since he was going to be kept for a herd boar, he was probably in pretty good shape anyway. We met many wonderful people from the Salvation Army and now have the opportunity to work with them on some summer camp programs that will feature farm animals for young, disadvantaged children.
Opportunities often arise when we least expect them but being prepared and willing to take the time to share our story will always be beneficial to everyone in food production if we handle it properly. They crave our story. They want a chance to learn about our farms and our animals. It’s our job to teach them what we do and why we do it—to feed the world! If it takes a mayor hugging a squealing pig to bring attention to farmers, so be it.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.