First generation farmer takes charge of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau

pig farmer
The National Pork Board named Chris Hoffman America’s Hog Farmer of the Year for 2019-2020. Hoffman was recently elected President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Chris Hoffman had a tumultuous week last week. The first-generation farmer was elected the ninth president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau on Nov. 16 during the group’s 72nd annual meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Hoffman never intended to become head of the state’s largest agricultural advocacy group. In fact, he never intended to be a farmer before taking a job in the pork industry more than 30 years ago.

Hoffman of Juniata County has grown into an enthusiastic and knowledgeable advocate for farmers, and he welcomes the opportunity to use that passion to guide his members as they work with the state’s newly elected leadership.

“I look forward to being a part of all of us working together to lead us into the future, that people want to be a part of this organization,” Hoffman said in an address to membership after the election. “I want to be the organization that people turn to when they have questions and one that farmers need every day.”

Hoffman succeeds Rick Ebert, a Westmoreland County dairy farmer, who has served as president since November 2014.

beginnings

Hoffman began working on a pig farm after high school to bid his time and earn some money until he could be accepted into the Pennsylvania State Police Academy. He always saw himself with a career in law enforcement.

Hoffman rose quickly through the ranks of the farm where he worked. Within six months of working there, he went from scraping out the pens to acting manager of the farm. In another six months, he managed an 850-sow piglets-to-feed operation.

Four years later, he realized he could set up his own business and start his own farm. He remembers telling his parents about his idea of ​​buying a farm and showing them the plans for building a pigsty.

“My mom looked at me and said, ‘Why do you want to get dirty every day?'” he said in an interview with farm and dairy. “It was a total shock to my mum and dad.”

They finally perished when they saw that his plan to earn a living as a farmer wasn’t so crazy after all.

Hoffman bought his first farm in 1994 and another in 1999. His second farm is why he was so dedicated to the Farm Bureau. He was a member for years after being pressured to join by another farmer in the area, but he didn’t feel he needed the group personally.

When he was in the process of buying his second farm, he encountered problems with some community residents who wanted stricter regulation of agriculture in the community. He realized that some of his neighbors and other residents of his rural community were far more disconnected from farming than he thought.

“People thought I was polluting the water and the environment with my farm. In the meantime, I was the first in the county with a nutrient management plan at the time,” he said.

That experience, and Farm Bureau’s help in overcoming the issues he faced to get his farm up and running, inspired him to get more involved.

He served on the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau State Board of Directors for eleven years and as State Vice President for eight years. He served as Chair of the Promotion and Education Committee of the American Farm Bureau Federation and is currently Chair of the State Agriculture Promotion Committee of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

In 2019 he was named Pig Farmer of the Year by the National Pork Board. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University.

He runs the Lazy Hog Farm, which includes a weaner, rearing pen and fattening pen. He also runs a poultry house where broilers are kept. Hoffman lives in McAlisterville with his wife Selina. Together they have four children and four grandchildren.

New challenges

Talking about the importance of farming in Pennsylvania is something Hoffman is willing to do again when he begins working with Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro. Shapiro is the prosecutor for two terms. Hoffman said he spoke to Shapiro, ahead of the election and he feels the new governor understands the importance of agriculture in Pennsylvania.

Shapiro has big shoes to fill. Under the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, the state legislature passed the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the first state-level farm bill that invested a record amount in farm programs.

Whether Shapiro Russell will retain Redding as agriculture secretary or if Redding will remain in office is not yet known, so Hoffman is preparing to potentially work with a new head of the state’s agriculture department. There will also be a new head of the environmental protection department. Secretary Patrick McDonnell left the post in July and Ramez Ziadeh has served as acting secretary ever since.

There are also a number of newly elected state legislators who were just elected in the interim period. The Pennsylvania Democrats won the state House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, taking 102 seats in the 203-member House.

“We have a huge task ahead of us,” said Hoffmann.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at [email protected] or 724-201-1544.)

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