For Jennifer Osterholt, agriculture runs deep. As a toddler, she grew up being around farm animals—she spent time in the pig birthing barn where she curiously watched her mother do the chores. It wasn’t long before she was tipping over her playpen so she could help out. As she says, being around animals was the cornerstone of her upbringing. Today, she is director of marketing and education for the Ohio Pork Council and lives on a Licking County farm with her husband of almost two years, Joe, and 8-year-old son, Henry.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a type-A, full-time mom who works tirelessly in my professional life to set an example of hard work for my son, aka the Little Farmer. I’ve been blessed to have met and married Joe, who was raised on a turkey farm. The “scandal” in my life is that I married a turkey farmer, but my job is to promote pork. Speaking of which—pork is safe to eat with a little bit of pink in the center. It’s a real flavor changer. If you cook it to the consistency of shoe leather, it’ll taste like that, so think pink—a blush of pink!
What type of farm do you have?
Our farm is in Alexandria just about a mile from where I grew up. My parents have about 20 mother pigs (sows) in a birth-to-market (farrow-to-finish) pig farm. They also have some beef cattle but our main business is growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. My husband is amazing. He works with my family, most of the time, but he owns ground and is still involved in his family’s hog, turkey and grain farm in western Ohio. I enjoy working in the supporting role on the farm when I’m able.
Your favorite and least favorite farm chore?
Favorite: Feeding animals with my son. It gives us quality time together as well as opportunities to teach him the skills needed to care for animals and grow food.
Least favorite: Fixing things that break. Often times they happen at the most inconvenient and stressful times, and I don’t always know what to do so I call my husband or dad.
You’re a big believer in giving back to your community. What’s your inspiration?
The older I get, the more I see how much I’ve been given and how much it took to get there. After you have kids, you see how much time and effort is poured into them so they can grow, develop and learn. It made me realize how many people have helped me over the years, especially when I unexpectedly became a single parent in 2008 because of a farming accident. We can’t do everything all the time but there are certain points in our lives where we can do certain things, serve others and make a difference.
What are you involved with in your community?
Licking County Farm Bureau in so many ways. I started in high school when I was involved with the youth council and helped nursing home residents visit a mall and helped with their shopping. Today I’m on the county board and have helped at events like the Farmers Share Breakfast and Ag Plastics Recycling Day. I’ve been involved with my local church and 4-H and am active with Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals. Life has been easier since marrying Joe because now my son can be with another parent and that frees up some time for me to be involved in other activities.
Why is it important to be involved?
It’s difficult to pinpoint the single experience that will shape who or what you are, which is why it’s important to be involved in different groups. When you put all these experiences together, you figure out what you’re good at and how to be a better community member as well as an employee. You need to continue to challenge yourself and improve your leadership skills. There are always learning experiences.
Tell us about your recent visit to Washington, D.C. with the Young Agricultural Professionals.
This trip reminded me how important it is to be involved in the political process. A lot of decisions are made in D.C. that have a big impact on our businesses and families on a regular basis. As a part of Ohio agriculture, I got to see directly how the farm bill and regulations affect our family’s business and income. Every place we visited the message was the same: Tell us what’s important and what’s working and what’s not. We want to hear from you. When it comes to politics, it’s easy to become disengaged because you feel like you can’t make a difference. But trips like these change that feeling because you get to meet face-to-face with leaders who want to hear about your personal experiences.
What do you love the most about life on your farm?
The lifestyle and lessons learned. My husband could make far more money with an off-farm job but it’s worth it to trade some income for the time spent with family, the opportunity to instill a strong work ethic in our children and teach them skills that will benefit generations to come.
Read more about Osterholt’s life as a working mom and farm mom on her blog, plowingthroughlife.com.