2017: Craig Mensink
A true leader is not defined by titles or accolades; instead, a true leader is defined by their service and influence on others. For the past two decades Craig Mensink, the 2017 Distinguished Service Award Winner, has been selflessly serving the pork industry. For Mensink, the service has always been about the people first and the product second.
“It has been a true privilege to help Minnesota pig farmers have a voice,” said Mensink. “At a time when things were tough in our industry, I was in a position where I could take the time to serve my fellow stakeholders.”
Mensink’s service started in the mid-nineties when a group of farmers from Southeast Minnesota served as county representatives on state committees. The work was purposeful and the comradery was memorable.
“We built friendships with the people we served with, our families grew up together at industry events,” said Mensink. “We became a pork industry family, and it was an honor to serve alongside those men and women.”
Over the years, Mensink served on the state Promotion and Image Committee (2002-Present), Pork Congress Committee (2012-Present), the national Domestic Marketing Committee and the National Trade Committee (2013-Present). Through his committee involvement and his desire to serve, Mensink was elected as a Minnesota Pork Board director in 2004 serving as President in 2006.
After several years of service on state and national committees and the state board of directors, Mensink was elected to the National Pork Board where he served from 2012-2015.
“I was always more drawn to checkoff programming,” said Mensink. “My service afforded me the opportunity to meet pig farmers from across the nation, work with talented and passionate staff and gain a better appreciation for the complexities of our business and the administration of a checkoff program.”
The Pork Checkoff is charged with delivering programming in the areas of research, promotion and education. Mensink has always been drawn to pork promotion at the local, state and national levels. As he reflected on national promotions he was a part of, ‘The Other White Meat Tour’ served as an example of the commitment that he saw in industry stakeholders and staff.
“We went to five different race tracks as part of the tour,” said Mensink. “One weekend we had enough volunteers to cover all 44 grocery stores in the Kansas City metro area; it took a tremendous amount of coordination and commitment but it was all very rewarding.”
Although how farmers connect with consumers has evolved substantially since the mid-nineties, Mensink embraced the changes and taken full advantage of every opportunity to share his story and reinforce with consumers that pork is safe, nutritious and raised responsibly.
“It is all about creating an atmosphere where consumers feel comfortable asking a question one-on-one,” said Mensink. “If they have a relationship with a farmer they are less likely to rely solely on the internet for their information.”
Whether it is promotions, Operation Main Street presentations or visiting youth in classrooms, Mensink positively influenced many helping dispel misconceptions that exist about what pig farmers do on their farms every day.
“It takes a lot of work to get rid of one bad vibe,” said Mensink.
While Mensink’s industry engagement has primarily been defined by pork promotion efforts, those that know him best know his three true passions in life are faith, family and farming.
Craig and his wife, Pam, along with their son-in-law, Chad Persons, farm corn, soybeans and pigs in rural Fillmore County. They are shareholders in the Riverdale Sow Coop where Mensink serves as President since its construction in 1996. Mensink takes great pride in a well-manicured farm site. He says it is all part of portraying a positive image of the pork industry to the community.
The pride that Mensink takes in his farm is only overshadowed by the pride he has in his kids and grandkids. The Mensink’s have three children, Micheal and Rachel Mensink parents of granddaughter Lizzy; Mandy and Nate Olsen parents of grandsons Owen and Asher, and Megan and Chad Persons soon to be parents of a little farm hand in February of 2017. Mensink instilled an appreciation for agriculture and more importantly honesty, integrity and the importance of always finding time to give generously of their time and talents in his kids.
“Whether it is farming or life, no one can do it all alone,” said Mensink. “It is important to support others and give back to those around you, we all need a support system at times in our lives.”
Mensink has been a tireless, humble, passionate and enthusiastic leader at the county, state and national level for the pork industry. He leads by example in his personal and professional life showing what it means to serve your fellow neighbor in an effort to make our communities and industry the best place possible to live, work and raise a family.
“What we do is bigger than any one person,” said Mensink. “This is about creating opportunity for the next generation of farmers and I am truly appreciative that I have had the opportunity to do my part.”