Bohnenkamps named Master Pork Producers

Thursday, February 23, 2023
Chris and BreeAnn Bohnenkamp were honored as Iowa Master Pork Producers at the 2023 Iowa Pork Congress banquet Jan. 25. They are contract growers and operate a feeder-to-finish operation.
(Photo contributed)

REMSEN — Chris and BreeAnn Bohnenkamp of Remsen are among seven who were named as Iowa’s Master Pork Producers for 2022.

The award was presented at the 2023 Iowa Pork Congress banquet in Des Moines on Jan. 25. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and Iowa State University Extension co-sponsor the program.

A Master Pork Producer award denotes an individual’s or family’s excellence in pork production, as measured by their pork production statistics, their commitment to We Care® principles, and their contribution to their community. The We Care principles outline a pig farmer’s responsibilities to uphold high standards for animal well-being, food safety, the environment, as well as support of their local community.

Chris Bohnenkamp, 33, said he has been involved in raising swine since he was a kid. His grandpa had 3,000 outside hogs and a large farrowing house, and his dad built a finisher a couple of years before Bohnenkamp was born.

“My grandfather and father both raised swine so I learned from a young age,” he said.

It was that involvement that guided him to a career choice of raising swine.

“I have been helping raise pigs, since I was a little kid. Farming is all I have ever known,” he said.

Today, he and his wife, BreeAnn, are contract growers. Their feeder-to-finish operation includes a 600-head nursery and a 2,400-head finisher barn. With the help of a hired hand, Bohnenkamp also takes care of his dad’s pig barn sites.

Chris explained that a contract grower is a farmer with a swine facility, that raises another farmer’s pigs for them.

“I like working with pigs, because it can be very rewarding when you put in the proper work. It also provides a cheaper alternative for high quality protein throughout the world,” he said.

Chris oversees day-to-day responsibilities, from regular chores to ordering feed, vaccinating, and power washing. They mostly grow for Hanor, but work with Tyson Foods and smaller integrators, as well. Pigs are marketed to Tyson in Storm Lake and Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City.

The father-son duo also runs a commercial manure pumping business, which started with a homemade tanker. The business really ramped up once Chris graduated from high school. Their business covers about 7,000 acres a year, and the income has allowed them to build more pig barns.

In addition, Chris is a salesman for ManureMagic®, an additive to prevent solids buildup, foam, and odor in pits and lagoons.

The farm lifestyle is something different for BreeAnn.

“I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up outside of Marcus, and never pictured myself as a farm wife. But here I am and I cannot imagine raising our boys anywhere else,” she said.

About five years ago, Chris was recruited by the Plymouth County Pork Producers to join their board. He has since served as a county delegate at the Iowa Pork Producers Association annual meeting,

“I just became president of Plymouth County Pork Producers,” he added.

The Bohnenkamps have helped with various county activities, including the annual golf outing, grillings, and the Plymouth County Fair. In 2021, they headed up a committee to offer their popular “Chop in a

Glove” when the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) stopped in Le Mars, and they assisted neighboring Ida County Pork Producers when RAGBRAI rolled through Ida Grove in 2022.

“Since I did not grow up on a farm, it’s a learning experience for me, as much as the kids,” BreeAnn said. “We have made some good friends through Plymouth County Pork Producers and everyone is always excited to see the Chop in a Glove.”

Chris coaches T-ball and is a member of the MMCRU Schools youth athletic board. BreeAnn is a dental assistant in Orange City. The couple stay active with St. Mary’s Parish in Remsen and helped organize an auction last summer.

The Bohnenkamps say their sons, Brennan, 7, and Collin, 3, fight over who gets to do pig chores.

“They are both in school and enjoy all the aspects of the farm, from tractor rides to pig chores. They are always eager to learn and help,” Chris said.

“I really enjoy working with my father on a day-to-day basis. I am hoping to be able work with my boys someday,” he added.

The couple took a moment to reflect on what the Master Pork Producer honor means to them.

“We are honored to represent Plymouth County. We are proud to help feed America and teach our boys what it’s all about along with great work ethic,” they said.

The Master Pork Awards Program Selection Committee is made up of staff from the ISU Extension Service, the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State, and the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Award winners are nominated by their peers and neighbors, and represent the diversity of Iowa’s pig farms and the people who support pork producers. That production diversity helps maintain the strength of the industry and enables Iowa producers to compete successfully in the domestic and international commodity and niche markets.

Nominations for the 2023 Master Pork Program awards will open in May.