“We take it very seriously that what we’re doing here is raising food for our family and other families,” Heather said. “As a mother, there’s nothing more important than the decisions I make that impact my children and their health. So we do a lot of things here to make sure we’re taking care of the environment and taking care of our animals to ensure we’re producing a nutritious, high-quality product that is very safe and affordable.”
Heather didn’t grow up on a farm, but her grandfather was a pig farmer. Her love for agriculture began in 4-H, showing livestock as a young girl with her siblings. After high school, she attended Purdue University where she studied animal science and later worked at Pfizer Animal Health. She brought that education and experience back to the farm to help Hill Farms continue its legacy.
The Hills' pigs are raised in climate-controlled barns where the thermostat is adjusted to precise temperatures, depending on the age of the pigs. A curtain is raised or lowered as weather changes to allow in fresh air for ventilation. Pigs are protected from the Indiana elements — sun in the summer, snow in the winter — as well as from natural predators such as coyotes. At Hill Farms, animal health is the barometer of success.
“It’s very important that we take care of our pigs — our whole priority is to raise healthy pigs,” Heather said. “I often joke that we take better care of them than we do ourselves. We have generators in the barns that automatically kick on if we lose power — that doesn't happen at my house. Our veterinarian comes once a month to do a routine herd visit. No one in my family goes to the doctor every month. I think about my grandfather a lot because he would be amazed at the level of care that we can provide these pigs.”
Advocating for agriculture
In addition to her responsibilities on the farm, Heather advocates for agriculture and U.S. pork producers through her involvement with the National Pork Board. She recently served as board president with her term ending in June. She’ll continue to serve on the board another year as ex officio past president.
Hill Farms is also active in the Glass Barn Education Center at the Indiana State Fair. Started by Indiana's soybean farmers 10 years ago, the Glass Barn provides visitors an opportunity to learn about agriculture with interactive activities and educational displays. The Glass Barn is open during the state fair and hosts video chats where fair attendees have live conversations with farmers straight from their farms. The Hill family has participated in the video chats and other Glass Barn initiatives as a way to help educate the community about agriculture.
For Heather and Hill Farms, advocating for agriculture is something they see as a responsibility, to help consumers better understand how their food — especially that juicy pork tenderloin sandwich — ended up on their plate.
“When given the opportunity, it’s important that we share what we do with our friends, our neighbors and our community. People often say we need to need educate the Coasts about agriculture, but I’m a firm believer that we need to educate the people right here in our own communities,” Heather said. “If people have questions about agriculture, I feel a responsibility to answer them and help educate about what we do, so that they have confidence in the food that they’re eating from the grocery store.”