IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Sarah Wall knows pork. She’s the Iowa Pork Queen for good reason.

At any given time, her family’s wean-to-finish swine operation near Morse is home to 1,500 pigs and hogs. Wall, 18, has been raising pigs as a 4-H project since she was a little girl and has served as president, historian and secretary for her local chapter of FFA.

Her roots in Iowa farming run deep. Wall is the sixth generation of her family to work the land and raise livestock in southeast Iowa.

She understands that Iowa’s pork production contributes nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy and supports more than 39,000 jobs across the state.

Being crowned Pork Queen by the Iowa Pork Producers Association is the sizzle on the bacon, you might say. The Wall family is thrilled.

“It’s a real big honor,” Tom Wall, Sarah’s father, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “I think her grandfather — John Wall, who was real active in the pork producers — is prouder than anyone.”

Iowa is the only state in the nation that still crowns a Pork Queen, said Kelsey Sutter, marketing and program director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Each county pork producer organization is entitled to enter one candidate, from high school senior to age 20, to compete in the contest.

If a county doesn’t have an organized contest and there is a qualified candidate who would like to run, that county can send her to the Iowa Pork Queen Contest. The competition is held each year in January during the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines.

This year, nine women competed for the crown, with the runner-up named the Iowa Pork Princess. The association also selects an Iowa Premier Pork Youth Ambassador, a competition that is open to men and women.

Sutter said the Pork Queen and Princess play important roles assisting with state pork promotional and educational activities, including the World Pork Expo, Iowa Pork Youth events, Iowa State Fair and the Iowa Pork Congress. They even travel to Washington, D.C.

That’s why queen contestants are tested on their knowledge of the pork industry and ability to interact with the public.

“It’s an in-depth competition,” Sutter said.

First, the contestants have a 10-minute interview with three judges followed by an extemporaneous-style speech on a topic about the pork industry. They have 30 minutes to prepare.

In addition, there is a media interview, a skill-a-thon that tests their knowledge of the pork industry and a “winter pork picnic” in downtown Des Moines where contestants serve a free pork lunch and interact with the public.

If that wasn’t enough, each contestant is judged on how well she answers a questionnaire provided by the IPPA.

The queen and ambassador receive $2,000 scholarships. The princess receives a $1,000 scholarship.

Sit down with Wall and it’s easy to see why she wowed the judges. She can rattle off facts about pigs and the pork industry like a pro:

* Iowa produces one-third of the nation’s swine;

* There are 150 byproducts that come from a pig, including insulin, crayons, shampoo and paint;

* Pigs are the fourth smartest animal;

* The anatomy of a pig is very similar to humans, which is why about 40 human medicines are made from pigs.; and

* A 3-ounce pork tenderloin has 120 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Wall, who is a freshman at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, plans to eventually transfer to a four-year university and major in agriculture education with a minor in animal science. Her dream is to become a high school agriculture teacher and FFA adviser.

“When all those baby boomers start retiring, there is going to be a lot of openings in ag education,” she said.

As the state’s Pork Queen, Wall hopes to share her passion for the industry and to inspire a greater appreciation for farming.

“Growing up on a farm was the best blessing I could have ever asked for,” she said.


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