West Branch senior runs thriving business while going to school


    Emily Harold between her Berkshire pigs. They are fed acorns, creating a unique buttery taste known as Iberian pork in Europe. The breed originates in England and is now primarily bred in the U.S. and Japan.<p>{/p}

    Emily Harold is like any other high school senior. She works on her homework, likes to hang out with her friends and thinks about college. But that's not quite it for Harold. She also runs a thriving agricultural business called Natural Oak Pork. In 7th grade, Harold and her dad started thinking about building a business around her show pig hobby. Emily had been showing pigs at competitions all across the state and wanted to fund her hobby. Her business idea evolved around a rare and prestigious hog breed called the Berkshire Pig and its product, Iberian Pork.

    "When you are cooking it, it has a different aroma," Harold said. "It has a different taste, I like to describe it as really rich and buttery and who wouldn't want a pork chop like that. We can tell the difference just because of their feed efficiency. They are pretty happy animals."

    For Harold, the experience of running her own business has been a learning experience throughout. It's not just the physical aspect of processing an animal and caring for it through the process, but also the appreciation of carrying on Iowa's agricultural legacy. The project started under the umbrella of FFA's supervised agricultural activity but has become so much more.

    "It's really kind of interesting for me to go out and experience with customers who don't know anything about pork processing or anything about raising hogs but they want bacon, they want ham and they want pork chops," Harold said. "My Parents knew sometime we are going to have to get her a pig or a goat or a cow or a horse and I got stuck with pigs and goats and I am very thankful for that."

    Emily's father Scot grew up in Western Iowa and made raising animals and agriculture his career. While it can be stressful to manage school and a small business, it's the reward that comes after that motivates both Emily and her dad.

    "It makes your heart feel pretty good that you were able to make an influence," Scot said. "For her and to be able to take a little bit of what her mom and I have given her and take that to another level. it will be very rewarding."

    The next level for Emily is Iowa State University. She is enrolled to earn a double major in agricultural business and agricultural communication. But that doesn't mean the journey of Natural Oak Pork will end. Her brother Kyle and her dad will carry on with the company and keep it running while she is away. Eventually, Emily wants to own her own land and farm herself. Natural Oak Pork however is here to stay and Harold hopes it will end up in retail stores across the state.

    "Being a 4.0 student and running your own business and running your own show pigs, no it's not easy," Harold said " But It's really what I want to do. It's going to be hard to walk away from it but my brother has watched me sell this product and if he does need help I'll be the first one to be there."

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