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Extension educator returns to her roots in the pork industry

Sarah Schieck is a swine educator with University of Minnesota Extension based at the West Central Research and Outreach Center.

MORRIS, Minn. -- For Sarah Schieck, a swine educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, returning to work with the pork industry is like coming home.

In her new position, based out of Morris' West Central Research and Outreach Center, Schieck will get to return to her roots in the pork industry and help connect producers with the research being done at the University of Minnesota.

Schieck grew up on a small hog farm near Sunburg, Minn., a small town just north of Willmar.

In the 1980s, Schieck's father -- a high school biology teacher by trade -- rented the farm land and facilities from her grandfather. Schieck and her younger brother grew up working on the hog farm and were active members in 4-H and FFA.

After her father sold the farm, Schieck and her brother restarted the operation as their supervised agricultural experience for FFA. They owned and operated the farm together for nine years.

As a college student at Ridgewater College and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Schieck spent weekends working on the farm -- doing vaccinations, cleaning the barns and moving pigs.

"When I walked into the barn, any worries about school or anything like that went by the wayside," said Schieck. "For me it was a really enjoyable experience. I can definitely relate to the producers that it's a natural fit for them and what they're doing."

Schieck received a bachelor of science degree in science in agriculture and a master's in animal science with an emphasis in swine nutrition from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

For the last four years, Schieck was on the faculty at Ridgewater College as an agriculture instructor. In addition to teaching about swine, Schieck focused on general livestock classes like intro to animal science, animal nutrition, reproduction, and beef and swine management.

Schieck joined the staff at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in June as only the second swine educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

In this new position, Schieck will get to return to her roots in the pork industry and help connect producers with the research being done at the University of Minnesota.

Schieck's position as a swine educator is 100 percent within the University of Minnesota Extension system. Although she is based in Morris, Schieck said she will be working to connect pork producers throughout the state with the research that is being done at the WCROC and the broader university community.

Swine Extension works closely with the Minnesota Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council on their educational and certification programs.

The only other regional swine educator is located in Mankato, Minn., which means the two positions will bookend the state's pork industry. Stevens County is at the northern edge of Minnesota's pork producing region.

Schieck is already getting more familiar with the health issues that may be affecting the pork industry and getting up to date on useful research. As a liaison to pork producers, she is also bringing research ideas to WCROC scientists based on concerns she is hearing in the industry.

"That's another reason why it was a good idea to base this position here," she said. "I'm here and available for [pork producers] to use as a resource if they have any questions or concerns or suggestions about what they'd like to see in terms of support for their industry."

Schieck can be reached by e-mail at or at the WCROC at 320-589-1711.