Mark has known nothing other than the livestock industry. He’s been raised in it and has breathed every waking moment in it. Growing up with Dan Hoge has allowed him to learn from thee very best and to see for many years firsthand how incredible this industry is. He’s tagged along to livestock judging events at Black Hawk East College for as long as he can remember allowing him to be raised right alongside amazing, influential livestock leaders. All of the moments in his life revolve around raising and evaluating livestock. If you were to ask him he doesn’t remember any moments without livestock. In fact his greatest fear is not being around livestock. In addition to growing up learning how to evaluate livestock, he was able to raise livestock on his grandparents family farm in Walnut, Illinois. They raised every species there was and of course showed them too! The family spared nothing to make sure Mark was able be raised around all types of species. They never limited him in anything he did creating a person who is driven for the industry and knows no limitations for what is possible.
There was no doubt that this was the path Mark would take. Raising and evaluating livestock is his gift.
Mark went to Blackhawk East College followed by University of Illinois followed by masters at Iowa State University followed by PhD in genetics at Michigan State University. Professor at WIU advisor to the AGRs AND hoof and horn, WIU coach, judge raises hogs at home.
The livestock industry is Mark‘s passion. He is captivated by the industry. He won’t worry about how much time it takes or energy he just gives his all and sacrifices it all without a second thought. People that don’t know him don’t know this, but people that work with him for sure know, that Mark wants everyone to succeed around him. He wants to help them pursue their passion which in return allows the industry to be more successful. Anybody that’s passionate about something knows that when you love something so much you want to share that with others, he wants everyone to succeed and pushes them to be better. In return, he asks a lot of people. He pushes people to find strength that they weren’t taping into and therefore helps people grow in incredible ways. He would give anything to help anyone. He is very self less. He wants to pass on his passion to others. Being a professor allows him to do this.
Working with young adults is so important to him. He wants to help guide them, he loves talking with them and hearing their ideas and brainstorming. Although Mark has lots of years of experience he still wants to hear what others have to say. He knows in order to grow you can’t be one minded that you must listen to other people’s ideas and although some of these kids are 20 years old he still listens intently to what they have to say. He knows that in order to grow you can’t stop listening and learning from others around you.
I have never met someone that goes as hard as Mark. The only person that could really understand his lifestyle would be his family. And really his children don’t even know how hard he goes because they think this is the norm. I’ll never forget when we were building a barn Carter and Nolan couldn’t understand why the people weren’t working on Saturday and Sunday. It was unimaginable, out of reality to them that somebody was not working on a perfectly good day. I had to explain that most people don’t work Saturday and Sunday, they had never heard or witnessed such a thing and were taken back by this unthinkable concept.
Most things he does in one day people do over the course of a month. We can be going to two Junior nationals in two different species across the states, farrowing hogs at home, on top of judging a show because it is near the junior national, writing a reference letter, purchasing a plane ticket for a trip that occurs three days from the day and making it to a baseball game real quick. I don’t make this stuff up. Most people would say no, that’s too much going on, but Mark doesn’t know how to say no. He is without a doubt a living example of how to live every single moment to the fullest. That no minute can be wasted. That no minute can be sitting down. That no minute can be mediocre. That digging deep when you have nothing left to give is the only way to live. We aren't well rested people.
The thing that pains me the most is that people don’t think Mark has a plan for tomorrow or why he can't discuss his next week’s schedule. The problem is he can’t talk about tomorrow because his today plans don’t allow him to give tomorrow a thought. He has too much going on in one day that his schedule doesn’t allow him to think about anything but the exact moment he is currently in...and isn’t that the goal of life? To live in the moment. He does! He doesn’t waste one minute of the day. He goes hard every single minute of the day. Mark’s family is to be credited for this trait. They never limited Mark on what he could do. They pushed him and allowed him to do anything and everything he wanted to. If Mark believes with his heart that it’s a good step in the right direction, despite all of the difficulty that might come by taking that step, he’s taking it. No doubt. And let me tell you what I’ve been with him through all of his steps and I’ve never seen him going in the wrong direction. When I think he can’t do it, that it’s too much, he proves me wrong every single time. He always comes out on top.
His goals for family and the industry are simple and the same. Be better. Do more. This industry is so important to him it’s what raised him it’s what’s raising his family it's what he wants so badly for other families too. It’s his mission to make sure that as an industry and an individual person, we continue to make progress and we don’t become stagnant. Whenever you talk to him that’s what he wants to discuss making genetic progress. He wants to make sure that we aren’t influenced by trends and that the decisions we make are sound and just and that we are fair and kind and loyal to one another. He believes in picking the best one.
His ability to see things is staggering. The way he can think about the decisions of choosing an animal and breeding and raising and feeding hogs is mind blowing. It is every part of who he is and what sets him apart is he is willing to share this with others. There are many times I would like him to be at home with us, that would be so much easier, that would be better for me, but that wouldn’t allow him to share with others. I know that in order to be impactful you have to be able to share your gift with others and I’m lucky to have someone that is so worthy of sharing.
He enjoys doing things that people say cannot be done and will not be stopped by norms or boundaries. He will stop at nothing to positively impact the livestock industry. The scary thing is I know he has so much more to give and there just doesn't happen to be any more seconds left in the day that allows him to give any more than what he already is giving.
We are a family that doesn’t ever talk about our successes, ever. The goal has never been about winning a show, our goal is to raise unbelievably, industry-changing livestock that we believe in and working incredibly hard and when you have those two goals at the front of everything you do sometimes winning comes with it.
Dan and Deanna Hoge-
Where Mark Hoge got his personality is something we are still pondering but thoroughly enjoying. These things in no specific order would have influenced him in some way: Dan building a high ranking livestock judging team thus from little up, being surrounded by college age influences—want to be like them, Grandparents (Verden and Verna Lee Broers) that would listen, support and share their time in his life, livestock was raised and housed at “Grandpa’s Farm, an autistic (Asperger’s) sister –5 yrs. older with Mark being her best friend, a mother whose belief was “Whatever you enter into, you are expected to finish to the best of your ability.” So started his life at age 3----entered into tumbling because he needed to be social, he needed to be coordinated, and he needed to learn to line up! Competition in this started at age 5 and thus competition became a large part of his life in many forms as you will see.
As his sister, Kathy, was older, Mark was involved in the cattle show arena from an early age. Through his 4-H years Mark exhibited cattle, hogs, sheep, and western pleasure horse. He began speaking competitions as a Jr. High literary contestant. Formal livestock judging began in 7th grade with the Atkinson, IL, FFA coach Roger Carr who is now a highly successful FFA instructor and coach in Indiana. When joining FFA he became very active though the guidance of instructor Ron Alhorn, in livestock judging and Parliamentary Procedure—starting as a floor member and by his Jr. year was competing as a chairman and in his senior year was the Illinois state champion chairman.
In high school his extracurricular activities included football (tight end), basketball(center) and track (3200 and 1600) in which Mark excelled and was awarded multiple all-conference awards. To add to his personal development, he also played trumpet in band, marching band, and ensemble competitions (5 entries his senior year). Through his involvement in choir, Mark was a cast member of a school musical presentation all 4 years. Probably “Sonny” in the play Grease was his claim to fame.
Highlighting his early judging career, Cambridge FFA was the state livestock judging team that represented Illinois in Kansas City and was a top ten individual. Between his senior year and freshman at Black Hawk College, Mark was selected to the Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging team in which he was named high individual in the National 4-H contest in Louisville. At Black Hawk he was high individual at the National Barrow Show and the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo. At the senior college level at the University of IL, he was high individual at the National Western and finished his competitive career by winning the National Senior College contest in Louisville.
While working on his master’s degree at Iowa State, Mark was an assistant coach under Dr. Scott Greiner whose team was high team overall at the American Royal. Mark followed by coaching several highly successful teams. He finished his education at Michigan State University earning a PhD. I3n Animal Breeding. Mark joined the teaching faculty at Western IL University at Macomb, IL and serves as the livestock judging coach.
From this you can tell it takes many to encourage a youth to become the best they can be. As parents, we were so fortunate Mark had the abilities to take these paths. Hopefully this is carrying over as Mark continues to be competitive in many ways. But mainly he enjoys what he is doing and enjoying Katie and his children.