Bus woes slow farm-touring queens

Published 1:27 am Monday, April 14, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Nate and Lou Ann Robinson's rolling farms between Cassopolis and Marcellus are more diverse than suggested by hundreds of hog huts strewn over the hillsides.
The farm Miss Blossomtime Kerri Hazel of Bloomingdale, area queens, including Miss Cassopolis Ashley Smego and her twin brother, Mr. Blossomtime Adam Smego, visited Saturday -- about an hour late after their bus broke down after lunch in Paw Paw on Farm Bureau's annual agricultural tour -- is at 55721 Decatur Road in Volinia Township.
Although a swine farm "in general," sheep are also raised on some of the pastureland.
The farm produces about 7,000 animals. After farrowing outdoors, they are taken back to the woods to be housed until slaughter.
Pointing to sows in another lot, Robinson said, "They're being bred for the next turn in June and July. My wife takes care of the majority of the animals by herself in the sense of taking care of the ones having pigs. We have another person who takes care of the feeding, so they're fed by one person. My son and I come in and help out wherever we're needed."
Lou Ann promoted opportunities available to women in agriculture, "not just out here working, which is what I prefer to do," but also in fields like agronomy.
Robinson's hog farm butts up against Russ Forest, the 700-acre Michigan State University property.
The Robinsons became farm tour hosts in 2002 when their neighbor, Jessica Cuthbert, was Miss Dowagiac.
This year's Miss Dowagiac, Kristin Rose, missed the bus trip to be in New Orleans with Union High School's Humanities Club.
The farm tour also took the queens to the Andrews University Dairy Parlor in Berrien Springs and to Dickerson Greenhouse in Gobles before returning to Tryon School in St. Joseph.
Robinson also belongs to a cooperative which gives retail opportunities for its products in Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Chicago.
He gestures to the woods and its horse trails. "We're putting in campgrounds. What happened to the hog industry makes you change your mind in a hurry. With bigger companies producing pork with which I can't compete, you diversify so all your money isn't in those animals so we can ride this through. What we've lost in the hog market, 30 years of equity is starting to be eaten. I sure need a good accountant and lawyers," he laughed.