Jan 21, 2020

Lewistown: Chris Hoffman

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Pigs and putts aplenty for Lewistown’s Hoffman

Did you know that America’s Pig Farmer of the Year plays golf?

“No” you say? Well, let the following serve as the perfect platter of putts and pork.

Chris Hoffman, a Lewistown Country Club member, is America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, as selected by the National Pork Board, for 2019. When he isn’t hogtied, he hits the fairways.

“I’ve been trying to take Wednesday afternoons off just to get away from the farm and kind of unwind a little bit,” Hoffman, 51, of McAlisterville, Pa., said. “I love Lewistown. I love the golf course. I love the people who golf up there. It’s just a nice course to get out and enjoy the scenery. As a farmer working seven days a week, you need to schedule that time away. Golf helps me, at times, to be able to uncheck myself from the other crazy parts of my life. I have a lot of things that are always going on.”

Being named America’s Pig Farmer of the Year is just the latest of Hoffman happenings. He owns and operates Lazy Hog Farm, a three-site endeavor in McAlisterville, and a poultry farm (appropriately titled Lazy Chick Farm). Hoffman is vice president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, an organization he’s served for the last 25 years. He is also a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

Hoffman’s new national distinction unfolded thanks to a nomination from his wife Selina. To officially become a candidate for America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, however, Chris needed to complete rigorous paperwork in which he outlined how Lazy Hog Farm adhered to the We CareSM ethical principles. These include promoting animal well-being, producing safe food, protecting public health, safeguarding natural resources and the environment, providing employee safety and education and giving back to the community.

A series of personal interviews, an online vote and an on-farm audit of animal health, safety and management practices later, and Hoffman, for pun’s sake, hogged the spotlight as America’s Pig Farmer of the Year.

“It’s very humbling because there are 60,000-plus hog farmers out there. To be selected means a lot,” Hoffman said. “You never set out to do any of this stuff. You want to do it because you want to feed as many people as you can. You want to produce the best protein I can do for a nutritious meal.”

“Chris is both a strong advocate for our industry as well as the embodiment of a responsible, progressive producer,” National Pork Board President David Newman said in a release. “He will do a great job in leading pig farmers as we all work to demonstrate to our consumers that we aspire to ethically raise the safest, most wholesome protein supply in the world.”

Hoffman’s start in the farming industry is a lot like his start in golf: cavalier. The Middleburg High School alum initially wanted to pursue law enforcement as a career.

“I was too young [to go into the academy at that time]. You had to be 21 years old to be able to legally carry a sidearm,” Hoffman said. “I needed a job. A feed company (White Oak Mills in Elizabethtown, Pa.) asked me if I wanted to come work for one of their farms. I said, ‘Sure. No problem,’ thinking I needed something to do to hold me over. Within six months, I was the assistant manager. Within a year, I was managing another farm for another feed company (Pennfield Corporation in Lancaster, Pa.].

“Then a farm (Lazy Hog) came up that I could buy and I could do it on my own. Before you know it, I bought my first farm in April 1994. Four years later, I bought a second farm. It snowballed to the point we’re at today. It’s all kind of by accident.”

Happenstance applies to Hoffman’s golf heartbeat, too. 

“After I graduated high school, a couple of us would goof off and try to play nine holes. We borrowed clubs from people. We went out and had fun with it,” Hoffman said. “But then I got myself a set of new clubs, started playing more and started getting better. The game became more of a challenge for me to continue to try and get better. It’s fun because driving that golf ball 300 yards makes you feel good. Making that shot from 100 yards out close to the pin makes you feel good. Those are the things that bring you back to play, day in and day out.”

Retreating to Lewistown on Wednesdays may be a bit trickier in 2020. Hoffman, as America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, will publicly share his story of pig farming through speaking engagements across the country. He’ll also engage in further interaction with retailers such as Walmart, Target and Sam’s Club, working to reaffirm consumer confidence.

“To me, it’s about educating the consumer about the protein they’re consuming,” Hoffman said. “It’s been unbelievable so far. We did a ‘Give A Ham’ during the holidays. We inundated the food pantries across Lewistown with #GiveAHam. These are the impacts that you can make by having this type of award.”

During the aforementioned “Give A Ham” initiative, Hoffman “called out” friend and fellow Lewistown member David Eichenlaub for a donation. The latter willingly obliged. And in the spirit of return fire, Eichenlaub is likely to rib America’s Pig Farmer of the Year the next time they meet at Lewistown on a Wednesday afternoon.

“The guys who I golf with do a lot of kidding around. They always ask me, ‘Who are you hobnobbing around this day? Are you coming next Wednesday, or do you have something more important to do?’” Hoffman said. “The National Pork Board gave me [America’s Farmer of the Year] business cards. I’m going to hand them out and say, ‘This is good for the next nine months. Then they’re not good after that. There will be a new pig farmer within a year.’”

Hoffman will continue hognobbing, regardless of business card ink.

Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

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