Meet Rhyne Cureton, aka @pork.rhyne. (Best. Handle. Ever.) We met Rhyne through the Young Farmers Coalition and were fascinated to learn about his work. He’s got experience both on the farm, working with pastured pigs, and with the National Pork Board (the guys who invented the slogan: The Other White Meat). It all adds up to a super-smart take on how to build a better food system. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: How did you get into agriculture?
A: I had a stronger interest in environmental sciences. When I thought about agriculture, it wasn't in the most positive light. But when I went to [ag school] I learned how agriculture is a savior of the world. No civilization can thrive without agriculture. The economics is derived and based off of agriculture. People used to go to war for farmland. It's crazy. And so being able to see how agriculture played a good role in how we’re connected—because it’s not just food, it's economics, it's policymaking, it's education, it's land ownership and land rights--connected for me. I really fell in love with agriculture.
Q: There’s a lot of tension between long-time farmers and the new generation who want to do everything differently. Are they really that far apart?
A: In reality, I don't think the gap is that wide. I think in our minds, how we perceive the gap, it looks like oceans--like several oceans. But the reality is, it's not that huge. In fact, there are a lot of modern pig farmers that actually respect the new/beginning pig farmers because their granddaddy used to do that: Raising pigs on dirt? It's like, oh, yeah, yeah. It's been a while since I've seen that.
Q: How do you work to bridge that gap?
A: I have more understanding, more sympathy, more grace, because [modern pig farmers] are going through a lot. They're working in commodity systems. And so being able to say, “Hey, I'm here for you, I'm on your side. I may not necessarily agree with the method of production, but I understand it and I get it and I respect you.” That's kind of the approach that I take.