Mason Sandidge: Power of People
Mason Sandidge is part of the third generation of his family to farm near Marshall in Agri-Ready Designated Saline County. His family’s operation has specialized in the pork industry for more than 70 years. Mason, part owner of Ham Hill Farms, Inc., says that pigs are not the only thing that are important on the farm. He believes that the POWER of people is just as important as the pork that the family raises.
Ham Hill Farms, Inc. is a farrow to finish hog operation which means that piglets are born, grown and sold to become pork all on the same farm. The farm was started by Mason’s great-grandpa, Hardin T. Sandidge, in 1921. Hardin’s youngest son, Mason’s grandpa Gerald, took over the farm after his father’s passing and his two older brothers were drafted into military service. Mason’s father was the only one of Gerald’s four children to stay on the farm. Mason, his sister, and four cousins who are involved in the family operation represent the fourth generation of the family on the farm. During Gerald’s era, it was common for farms to be diverse, growing cattle, pigs, and chickens. Ham Hill Farms has been specializing in the pork industry for more than seventy years, raising Landrace/Duroc crossbred hogs chosen for their efficient production, robust health, and consistent quality of flavorful pork.
Ham Hill Farms, Inc. supports 25 full-time employees. “The people we work with are just as important as the pigs we raise. Our farm provides good jobs for people. I appreciate how many families we help by providing those jobs. We can see how many people are fed with our product, and by the jobs we create,” Mason said.
The farm grows some row crops and uses recycled manure from the hog barns as fertilizer. Soybeans are made into soybean meal, a major feed component. Corn is kept on the farm to be fed directly to the pigs. Mason works in the farm’s feed mill and oversees the making of feed for 3500 sows and each litter of piglets. He has a hands-on understanding of the volume of the farm’s feed inputs and a clear view of the resulting amount of pork the farm produces to feed thousands of families.
Years ago, Mason participated in the Young Missouri Pork Leaders program. He is currently a participant in the Missouri Pork Leadership group sponsored by the Missouri Pork Association. He is learning to further advocate for pork producers and dive deeper into issues while at industry expositions and advocating in Washington D.C. Most of all, Mason appreciates networking with the other members of his leadership group who share his interest and involvement in growing pork.
When addressing issues facing the pork industry, Mason finds herd health and industry regulations at the forefront. Outbreaks of the prolific, viral Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) in hog herds plague producers with financial and emotional strain. Mason is excited about animal research completed by the University of Missouri that used gene editing to develop pigs that are resistant to PRRS, but regulatory agencies have not yet granted approval for commercial production. Mason believes approval of this technology would lead to more pork marketed and an improved, healthier pork industry. Hog producers like Mason are also concerned about new industry regulations such as California’s Proposition 12.
“It is important for today’s hog producers to help consumers understand that regulations don’t always dictate the best way to raise pigs,” Mason said. “The changes required by this proposition will drastically increase the price of pork in the grocery store. Hog farmers don’t grow hogs just to make money; we care to make our pigs’ lives as healthy and safe as possible. We will do that without legislative regulation. Regulations often make it harder for farmers to do what is best for their hogs. If it is harder for the farmer, it will be harder for the pigs as well.”
Mason is a member of the Missouri Corn Grower’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, and the Missouri Farm Bureau, all partners of Missouri Farmers Care. Ham Hill Farms, Inc. shares insight and perspective for consumers about the pork industry, to learn more follow along here.