Holly Cook of Winthrop was crowned the 2016 Iowa Pork Queen one year ago, and has been representing Iowa pork producers at state pork promotional and educational activities.

But Cook's passion for the pork industry started on her family's farm in Buchanan County.

"I grew up on a farrow-to-finish hog farm in northeast Iowa with my parents, Aaron and Trish, and my younger brothers, Spencer and Kirby," she said.

In high school, she was an active member of the East Buchanan FFA Chapter, serving as chapter president.

She was also involved in her county pork producers association, and was named the 2015 Buchanan County Pork Queen.

Promoting pork

Serving as the Iowa Pork Queen has led her to even greater opportunities to reach numerous consumers in a variety of ways.

Her goal is to "show consumers that pork is a wholesome, delicious product that is produced by farmers who hold food safety and animal well-being in the highest regard," she said.

She and her fellow youth team members have promoted pork at hockey games, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, an Iowa Cubs game, the Iowa Speedway, the Waterloo Home Show, the World Pork Expo, the Iowa State Fair and even in Washington, D.C.

"We interacted with consumers in various grocery store promotions, as well as at the Giant BBQ Battle in Washington, D.C.," Cook said. "County fairs, banquets and parades have also served as great opportunities to represent the pork industry."

Cook is a freshman at Iowa State University pursuing a degree in agricultural business. She hopes to find a career that allows her to continue pursuing her passion for the industry.

Cook said she plans to continue promoting pork even after she passes her crown on to the 2017 Iowa Pork Queen this year.

"This past year has shown me that there are countless ways to get involved in promoting the pork industry. After graduating from Iowa State University, I hope to stay involved with the Iowa Pork Producers Association by joining a committee and perhaps participating in the Iowa Pork Leadership Academy," she said.

She hopes to continue advocating for the industry by staying involved in both county and state associations, and volunteering with promotional events.

One of her favorite things about the pork industry is how innovative it is.

"Farmers are constantly working to ensure that they are operating in the most efficient manner, while upholding their commitment to protecting the environment and producing the safest food," Cook said.

About the contest

There is no longer a limit of one contestant per county for the Iowa Pork Queen competition. Any female who meets the criteria and is passionate about the Iowa pork industry is eligible to compete.

Queen candidates answer interview questions, give a speech and personal presentations, conduct a media interview and take an industry knowledge quiz.

Kort is a freelance writer in Ankeny.