CARRYING ON FAMILY TRADITION

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Leon, Paul and Tom Berns have all achieved Master Pork Producers honors.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

It’s become a tradition for a member of the Berns family to achieve “Master Pork Producer” distinction. The newest recipient is Paul Berns, who was honored at the recent Clayton County Pork Producers banquet. He follows in the footsteps of his dad, Tom, and his uncle, John, who were jointly honored in 2003. Paul’s grandparents, Leon and Phyllis Berns, received the award in 1993.

A proud fifth generation farmer, Paul started tagging along behind his dad at the tender age of 2, according to his mother, June Berns. As he got older, he earned money by helping on the farm. It was hard work—picking up rocks, weaning pigs and generally lending his dad a helping hand.

“At the age of 10, he bought five pigs from his dad and Uncle John, and raised them on his own,” June said. “Every morning and evening, before and after school, Paul went out to do chores. When the hogs were big enough for market, his dad took him to sell the hogs—at 5 in the morning!”

“This was a big deal,” June continued. “When the check came, all but $50 went to the bank. He got to spend that $50 on anything he wanted.”

Paul graduated from Central High School in 2007 and then went to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 2011. He majored in ag business with an emphasis in commodity and price analysis as well as ag engineering technology.

By the time he left for Platteville, Paul had enough on-the-job training to take over the family hog operation. But getting a degree was important to him.

“With the market being an important factor in the industry today, I felt I needed to protect my investment by getting educated,” Paul said. “In addition, if something happens (with my farming career), I would have a degree to fall back on.”

Paul’s family includes his wife, Niki, and their dog, Harley plus two sisters Elizabeth and Gabrielle. The opportunity to be close to his family is one of the rewards of carrying on a long-held family farming tradition. Other rewards include feeding the world and spending his days doing something he enjoys.

Paul finishes out about 3,300 pigs annually. In addition, he works as a hired farm hand for his dad and his Uncle John. During planting and harvesting seasons, his days are quite long. He leaves home before dawn and returns long after sunset.

Paul is “proud, honored and excited” to be a part of a fifth-generation farm, and he’s pleased to see how far the farm has come. Still, his career is not without its challenges.

“The (greatest) challenge is the public perception of the pork industry,” he said. “For example, the care that the animals receive is far superior than 50 years ago.”

 

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