I ate so much free pork last week.

On three separate occasions, I covered an event and got to eat pork prepared and paid for by a local producer.

"Man," I thought, "it's good to live in swine country." If I wanted pork any fresher, I'd almost have to slaughter the pig myself. Plus, I don't buy a lot of meat, so it feels like a luxury when I eat meat somewhere else.

On further reflection, though, I realize that I have kind of "lived in swine country" my whole life.

My dad was raised by a pig farmer and is a swine nutritionist by trade, so pigs were a big deal in my house growing up. On several occasions, my family traveled with my dad to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, where my favorite thing was always visiting the various booths and collecting freebies. I loved the novelties I encountered, like bubblegum cigars and pen flashlights.

The Pork Expo was like Halloween, but better.

I can remember a time when my dad brought home what seemed like a mountain of pork loin. There was so much that labeling and storing the meat became a family activity. We formed an assembly line in the kitchen, and my job was to write the date on a million plastic freezer bags. Participating in my dad's work made me feel so special.

Since I've moved to Worthington, my porcine roots bubble up more and more frequently from a place in my spirit that I guess I forgot existed.

I haven't been to the Pork Expo in ages. It seems like a lifetime since I last visited a pig farm with my dad. I don't remember what a piglet feels like. But I do know that it makes me feel special to be part of a community that relies on farming and in turn supports farmers in countless ways.

From swine vaccines to feed mills to concrete pen slats, southwest Minnesota is a pork powerhouse. And I love that I get to learn about the multitude of moving parts that sustains our economy and way of life. Not every gig comes with a slab of meat or a bubblegum cigar, but almost every story I write helps me love this corner of the world just a little bit more.

Man, it's good to live in swine country.