Minnesota Pork Board names Families of John, Joe and Mark Schwartz Family of the Year
The Minnesota Pork Board named the families of John, Joe and Mark Schwartz Family of the Year, and honored them during the 2018 Minnesota Pork Congress, the organization’s convention and trade show in Minneapolis during the week of January 15-18. Following is the story that appeared in the Minnesota Pork Board magazine and a picture of the family that was taken during the convention. The story and picture were submitted to the Springfield Advance-Press by the Minnesota Pork Board.
Humble beginnings have led to humbling success for the families of John and Rosie Schwartz, Joe and Judy Schwartz, and Mark and Anita Schwartz. Together, these brothers and their families have built a family business based on their shared core values of integrity, respect, excellence, innovation and adaptability.
John, Joe, and Mark, along with their siblings, grew up on their parents,’ Jim and Irene Schwartz, dairy farm near Sleepy Eye. Schwartz Farms originated in 1978 when they started crop farming.
“We were raised on a dairy farm and started crop farming with dad, sharing machinery,” John said. “Then we started farming on our own and eventually started raising pigs.”
“We started out buying a few feeder pigs. The first pigs we bought was when we overran the grain bin and had to feed up the corn that was spilled,” Joe remembered. “We fed pigs on outside lots. The first barn we built was for grain storage, but we converted it to house hogs. We really thought we had something back then!”
John and Joe continued to purchase feeder pigs throughout the 80’s. They first started working with a contract farrowing farm in 1992. As time went on, it became obvious to the Schwartz family the industry was changing and they needed to pursue other avenues for supplying pigs.
“In the late 90’s we took ownership of our first sow farm. We tried to gradually expand that way, supplying the packers with what they wanted,” said John. “In the meantime, we brought on some very talented employees, and some are still with us today. They helped us get where we are. It was really a team effort, employees and contractors, all of us together.”
“1998 was a big change in that we acquired a 5,000 head sow farm. Prior to that, we only had 5,000 sows under contract production, so it doubled us,” Mark said. “That was a big undertaking at the time.”
While growing opportunities were being pursued by the Schwartz brothers, they were also implementing new practices on their farm.
“In 1996, we started working wean-to-finish,” John said. “We were probably one of the first farms in the state that went away from the standard nursery-to-finish model. That gave us a lot more flexibility, streamlined things and opened up more opportunities.”
In the early 2000’s the Schwartz family acquired a farm in South Dakota and continued growing with that model. In 2015, they gained ownership of sow farms in Nebraska, expanding their farm to reach across four states. Throughout the farms’ growth, team members and independent farm families continued to be key to Schwartz Farms’ success.
“We’re at approximately 350 full-time employees and over 250 independent contractors. We owe it all to them,” John says. “It’s a risky business. You can’t do it without good people.”
As the farm grew, so did the need for more team members.
“I remember telling Sheila, our HR director, when I hired her, ‘You’ll never get in trouble for making a good and honest mistake,’ and that’s what we’ve tried to do with all of our employees,” John said.
John demonstrated the motto, “Reward excellent mistakes, not mediocre successes,” with the belief that good people make good mistakes.
See complete story in this week's edition of the Springfield Advance-Press.