1) Pork Princess
Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook may have seen this status update:
Dan just uttered those 6 little words every Pork Princess longs to hear: "I can't wait to eat pork."
Dan had just spent 10 days in a Muslim country where pork is forbidden. ...and all he wanted was a pork chop, or ribs, or anything coming from my beloved commodity: pork. ...and it honestly delighted me. Dan is not one I would call a 'natural' lover of pork; he says that pork is only good when it's doctored up with a marinade. I disagree. Whatever...as long as he eats pork, it's a happy compromise.
What's with the pork, Jessica? Why would that be so important to you?
Hello? Do you not know to whom you are speaking?
THE 1998 IOWA Pork Princess.
That's right. For the whole state.
Yes, I had a crown. and banner.
Yes, I think it's an honor.
In fact, for a while it was listed under 'Awards & Honors' on my resume. No joke. I think it's one of the reasons I was asked to interview for the ETS job. Because, REALLY, who considers being a Pork Princess, an honor?
Well, you're reading her blog. ...and yes, even 15 years after being crowned, I still think it's an honor - and am still answering questions like this:
1) "So...what did you have to do to become Pork Princess?" (The phrase is usually uttered with some type of disbelief that this title actually exists.)
2) "Did you have to wrestle a pig, or something?"
3) "Have you ever butchered your own hog? ...like with your own hands?"
4) "Did you have to raise your own pigs?"
1) First, you had to be chosen as your county's Pork Queen. To be eligible, your parents must be members of the county Pork Producers Association. The selection process involved an interview with some of the county board members and then giving a 5-minute speech to the members of the county association at the annual banquet.
After being selected as county queen, you get to do a lot of fun stuff - like ride in parades, serve at promotions, serve at different events where your county is grilling & serving up pork, hand out ribbons at the county fair, apply temporary Pork. The Other White Meat tattoos, serve at the Iowa Pork Producers Association promotional booth at the Iowa State Fair, and take customers' orders at the Iowa Pork Tent. Essentially, you live the dream.
The selection of the Iowa Pork Queen and Iowa Pork Princess happens during Iowa Pork Congress in mid-January. Over the course of three days, county queens gather to compete. Our competition involved giving a 2-3 minute extemporaneous speech on how a randomly-selected item relates to the pork industry; completing a 15-minute interview; delivering a memorized, 5-minute speech about the pork industry. Besides these 3 events, we ate all of our meals with the judges and other women, and promoted pork and IPC events in the skywalks of Des Moines.
When I competed, there were 19-20 other women competing. As a senior in high school, I was the youngest. (There were about 3 other high school seniors, but I was actually the youngest.) The majority of the others were freshmen in college, and one sophomore in college. I believe that the contest rules require the Queen/Princess be between 18-20 years of age at the time of the competition. I LOVED it. It was so wonderful getting to meet all of these women, hang out...and start to visualize just what college could be like. The experience also cemented my dedication to agriculture and satisfaction with my choice of major.
After the 2.5 days of competing, we all gathered for the big event - the banquet. During this banquet, all queens were introduced. Then, the big moment - the field of 20 was narrowed to 6.
I MADE IT! As I was from Adair County (the first county, alphabetically), I was the first announced. I was also the first to answer the 'final question.' The other contestants were taken into another room (this really is very similar to Miss USA/America).
Our question, "If you could promote pork by preparing a meal for ONE person, who would it be; what would you prepare; how would you prepare it?"
Two people flashed into my head: Governor Terry Brandstad or Oprah Winfrey.
My answer: Oprah Winfrey. I then explained how Oprah was currently being sued by the Texas Cattlemen after comments she had made regarding eating beef after the Mad Cow outbreak in England. I noted that her comments represented a lack of understanding about the safety of our food supply, and that it was a call to action for all commodity groups to be proactive. Therefore, I would be proactive, invite Oprah (I don't know if I said to the farm - but if I didn't I should have), and prepare her a grilled Iowa Chop with sides of grilled broccoli & mushrooms, and potatoes. (If that doesn't scream IOWA, I don't know what does!)
Then, I sat down in the audience and listened to every other contestant answer. When Sarah Edwards, the representative from Story County (and college sophomore, Communications major), stated that she would choose Governor Brandstand AND invite him to her farm to see their operation....I knew that she had sealed the deal.
When the votes were tallied, Sarah was Queen and I was Princess. ...and I was elated and honored. The top 6 candidates were all deserving women. One, I had worked with for 2 years as Speak Out For Agriculture planning committee members, and knew her devotion to the pork industry; Another, a State FFA officer - and I had beaten both! I was truly surprised and honored.
...I can't even beging to relate what a blessing it was to serve alongside Sarah. She is so warm, welcoming, outgoing, hilarious. I learned SO much from her (and still do)! It was such an honor.
I loved serving the pork producers of the state of Iowa. It really was an honor to serve. ...and to wear a crown. I mean, really, what a girl doesn't dream of wearing a crown?!
2) No. No pig wrestling. I have never done this, actually. Unless, grabbing them by the hind legs to administer shots, notch ears, clip teeth/tails, and put in ear tags counts.
3) H-to-the-L No. Seriously, where do you think we are, Mexico? I have never butchered a pig with my own hands. I actually have never seen it done; I have judged carcasses, though.
4) Your parents needed to be members of their county Pork Producers Association. Having your own pigs was not a requirement to be selected county or state queen - but, I think it helps.
Yes, I did raise my own pigs. (My brother/father might contend that the word 'raise' is used loosely here.) My parents had a 70-sow, farrow-to-finish operation, and I helped. I had my own 4-H and FFA pigs. My preferred area of helping was in the farrowing house. LOVED that...my skills now are pretty rusty. A couple of years ago, my brother asked me to help him give shots to some of the pigs getting ready to be weaned. I was pretty slow. He looked at me incredulously, "Have you FORGOTTEN how to do this? J-Girl, you did this for YEARS!" ....yes...but, I also hadn't done it for years, either..... Skills get rusty when not used constantly.
...and there you have it. Pork Princess 4 LIFE!