Clark is a voice for ag
RUNNELS – One of the most predominant female voices touting Iowa agriculture wears many hats, including that of mom, wife, pork producer and blogger.
Cristen Slings Clark grew up on a grain and cattle farm in Jasper County. She and her sister still drive the grain cart for their dad while he mans the combine at harvest time.
Clark also played college softball at Drake University, majoring in public relations. While she launched her professional career in finance and business, Clark realized crunching numbers was not for her. As a blogger, voice of agriculture and pork producer, Clark found that public relations was indeed the perfect fit for her and enjoyed working at a radio station, organizing special events.
Her husband, Mike Clark, grew up in the country and raised pigs. They met through mutual friends and discovered they were both big jokesters and pranksters. They instantly hit it off. The couple together raise a son and daughter and show pigs. They lease barns close to their rural home that house sows, plus they have a small farrowing house and nursery at their home property.
“We sell the babies as show pigs to kids for 4-H and FFA. We also focus on meat quality genetics, so what we don’t show we use for the butchering business,” she said.
Both of their kids loves the pigs, while their daughter is very hands on. Their son gets a thrill out of riding in the tractor and combine with his grandpa. Clark’s husband sells swine nutrition, so the family is rooted in agriculture in different ways. She found she was better at blogging about cooking and her kids than she was scrapbooking, then discovered she could reach others about agriculture through her blog site.
“I was a crappy scrapbooker and decided to create an online version of our life. I don’t cut, paste or glue, but I love to write,” Clark said. “I didn’t want to miss anything in their lives and know how precious and little they are for such a short period of time.”
She’s also an prolific baker and cook and has won state and national cooking contests. She even hosted cooking classes at her home. When people began clamoring for copies of her recipe, she decided to share those online, too.
“I couldn’t carry around 4 by 6 recipe cards with me everywhere that people were approaching me for them,” Clark said. “While it was never my original intent to beat the drum for agriculture, it all fell together after that. I found myself writing more and more about agriculture, then being invited to speak at conferences and it just grew from there.”
Clark’s favorite part of being a leader in agriculture is the ability to reach out to consumers and educate them about what they’re eating, where it comes from and agriculture in Iowa. As a foodie, she works closely with the Iowa Food and Family Project.
“There’s a lot of documentaries out there that dispel a lot of misinformation, usually on the internet,” she said. We have to stand up and say that that isn’t right and give people a highway to farmers and ranchers and all that’s going on in Iowa. We have to help them step up and tell their story.”
Clark also made waves when she was featured on FarmHer. From traveling to California for a national cooking contest to the friends she’s made along the way across the country as a guest speaker, she described her role in agriculture as “exciting” and the opportunities as “insane.”
“I really enjoy speaking to different groups, especially women’s groups, to learn the concerns of moms at the grocery stores and to make sure that we, as farmers, are doing a good enough job addressing their questions about the food they’re buying for their families and eating,” she said.
Once her role in agriculture expanded from beyond that of raising pigs and driving a tractor, Clark ended up with her own clothing line. She has hats and hoodies, even cups that she hands out.
“For some reason, Iowans and others elsewhere really love pigs,” she said. They’re a popular farm animal and always will be. Pork is delicious. In the last couple of years, bacon has achieved a higher than celebrity status and people just get a kick out of my logo.”
Clark said she’s been blessed with the opportunities that have come her way to celebrate agriculture and educate others.
“It’s been really exciting,” she said.
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