LEWIS, Iowa — Mike Marshall certainly did not think he would end up making a career in the pork industry. He planned to enlist in the Marines between his junior and senior years at Glenwood High School.
But the Marine Corps had some bad news for the southwest Iowa teenager.
“I didn’t pass the physical,” Marshall says. “I was going into my senior year without any idea of what I was going to do.”
His parents and grandparents owned a farm near here in Cass County. Marshall knew some about farming, so when a neighbor died, his family approached the youth about taking over the farm.
“I started farming before I got out of high school,” he says. “We had moved here from Glenwood, so I made the 100-mile round trip each day to school, then went back to work.
“I’m not sure I knew what I was doing. I hadn’t planted a row of corn my entire life.”
That was 1986. He married his wife Tracy in 1992, and in 1998 the couple started finishing pigs for Murphy-Brown/Smithfield. After working with a few other systems, they began working with the Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic (AMVC) five years ago.
The couple was named a 2020 Master Pork Producer by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
They own three barns with a 1,100-head capacity. All the barns were built in 1998 and are emptied two and a half to three times per year. They also grow corn on about 750 acres.
Tracy grew up around pigs as her father farrowed sows. Their son Casey also helps out on the farm and works at Lindeman Tractor in Atlantic, and Mike works part-time for a nearby co-op. The couple has two other grown children.
Tracy manages the kitchen at the Creighton University Retreat Center near Griswold. The facility recently re-opened after closing due to COVID-19.
“I could not do this without her,” Mike says. “She’s amazing.”
In addition to the row crop and hog operations, the Marshalls own a tank and agitator, using it to apply manure to their own fields, as well as a few neighbors.
Both Mike and Tracy said it is important to be active in their community. They are members of the Iowa Pork Producers and Iowa Corn Growers associations. As Iowa Farm Bureau members, they served three years on the state Young Farmer Advisory Committee, served 15 years on the Cass County Farm Bureau Board, and received the Young Farmer Achievement Award in 1994.
They are active in a local Bible study, provide donations to local fire departments, and have been involved with 4-H, FFA and school activities. Mike spent 12 years as a volunteer wrestling coach.
“I loved wrestling, but I’ve had a bunch of surgeries and it just got too difficult,” Mike says. “I miss it.”
While he admits that agriculture was not his first choice for a career path, Mike says he feels blessed to have become a farmer.
“We really have enjoyed raising pigs, and we love working with AMVC,” he says. “It’s been hard work for sure, but we’re happy with how things worked out.”