Why do you do what you do?
Why I do what I do

My path in life was influenced by my experiences, interests, and opportunities. I was born in eastern Iowa and raised on the family farm. My dad and uncle farmed together on two farm sites, growing corn, soybeans, hay, and oats. When I was growing up, they raised cattle and feeder pigs to market. My mom was a nurse and a stay-at-home mom until we got older, then she began working in town. I was the second of four boys in my family, and we had a great childhood on the farm. We had lots of cousins and friends in the neighborhood to get into trouble with. I was able to start with a few livestock projects at home, but with four boys in the family, there weren’t enough chores to keep us all busy. As I got older, I started working for various neighbors and eventually took a steady job with a neighbor who asked me to do more on his farrow-to-finish swine farm. With older facilities it was a labor-intensive operation, but I learned a lot, we had fun most every day, and I looked forward to working there. We also had great local 4-H and FFA chapters which further developed my personal growth and interest in agriculture.

Like many high school students, I struggled with the decision of what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to do something related to agriculture, but was torn between trying to return to the farm versus attempting to get into veterinary school. Because I had some livestock projects at home, I started at a local community college, taking prerequisites before transferring to Iowa State in my junior year. Wanting to take advantage of my college experience, I participated on the meats and livestock judging teams and received a degree in animal science.

Around the time of my graduation from college, my uncle was injured on the farm and I returned home to help my dad. I shared an apartment with my older brother, who worked as a mechanic at a local implement dealership. My brother was born with a heart defect and was on a list for a heart and lung transplant. About 4 months after my return to the farm, my brother received the call for the transplant surgery. The surgical procedure had complications and his new heart did not restart properly. Additional complications led to his other organs shutting down and the decision came to discontinue life support. I was fortunate to spend a few months after graduation close to my brother and family. It was a life-changing experience for me and pushed me to finish the two remaining classes I needed to apply and get into veterinary school.

One of my younger brothers, who always had his heart set on returning back home to farm, graduated from Iowa State, while I was accepted into the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. On the first day of veterinary school I had a note in my mailbox from Dr Brad Thacker asking if I was interested in a job in swine medicine in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine. He was a great mentor and gave me the opportunity to develop my swine production and medicine skills. Approaching graduation, I had the opportunity to take a position in a mixed-animal veterinary practice close to home and the farm, or a food-animal practice in Fairmont, Minnesota. It was a difficult decision. My interest in food-animal production and veterinary medicine brought me to Fairmont.

When I started in Fairmont in 2002, one third of my time was spent with swine, one third with cattle, and one third open calls. As time went by, the swine clients I worked with expanded or asked me to do more for them. Currently I spend most of my time on swine health and production with the goal of making the pig win. It is hard work, I have fun most every day, work with a great group of people, and look forward to going to work.

About a year after I graduated from veterinary school my wife Ann and I were married. We now have three children (Tyler 9 years, Avery 6, and Alayna 3). We have been fortunate enough to purchase a piece of land outside town and are currently building a house to move our family to the country. We want to give them some of the same experiences that we both had growing up, with some livestock and chores. We hope this will help them have an appreciation for agriculture.

Service is important to me. My current service involvement includes St John Vianney School Board, AASV District 9 Representative, and coaching youth sporting activities. I am not perfect and sometimes struggle with the balance of faith, family, work, and service, but continue to work at getting better.

-- Jeff Kurt, DVM Fairmont Veterinary Clinic, LLP