This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everything is better with bacon (part 1)

Today is the grand opening of the Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms, and for the sake of the loyal readers of this blog I sacrificed the morning to see what was going on. (Never mind that I really enjoy events of this sort.) The welcoming ceremony was scheduled to start at 9:30 am (CDT--something that some of the visitors from other parts of the state did not realize, which may be why so many cars were already in the parking lot when I got there).

I rather quickly spotted the special tent for the occasion and wandered around watching and occasionally finding some people I knew.
 The balloons were cute, but not quite accurate. At the Pig Adventure they clip the tails to keep pigs from biting that inviting little target on other pigs.
 The tent was for those who had been invited and sent in their RSVP. However, there was plenty of room for others around the perimeter of the tent.
 At 9:30 the program began. The first speaker was Gary Corbett, the CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, shown below hobnobbing with Sue Ellspermann, the Lt Governor of Indiana and the last speaker on the program. His short talk stressed a theme repeated in other talks, that the Fair Oaks Farms was part of a dialog between agricultural producers, once the majority of the population but now a tiny minority of it, and those who no longer directly produce food. The Pig Adventure showed how pigs were raised in a facility using the latest technology.
 The next speaker was Malcolm DeKryger, the president of Belstra Milling Company, the company which runs Legacy Farms, the production facility that you visit when you go on the Pig Adventure tour. Mr KeKryger said he wanted people who visited the Pig Adventure to realize what an amazing animal the pig is, and also how amazing are the people who tend the pigs. (Farmers are always very proud of the work they do.) He talked about the sculpture shown below, carved by a Canadian artist and called "Union." He said it represented consumers and producers tied together. When it came time to explain why the production facility was named "Legacy Farms', he got emotional and had a hard time speaking. The name acknowledges the importance of fathers and grandfathers in laying the groundwork for the current business.
 Mike McCloskey, owner and co-founder of Fair Oaks Farms, repeated the theme that Fair Oaks Farms wanted to engage the public in a conversation about where our food comes from. He said that as poor nations develop, their citizens will want more protein in their diets, which along with population growth will increase the demand for food. He said that with technologies such as those being used and displayed at Fair Oaks Farms, increasing food production is possible without harming the environment. He said not all those in agriculture were excited about opening up to the public and showing what happens in the production of pork. Near the end of his talk he said that others have agreed to become part of the Fair Oaks story, but would not give details. He said his final goal was to have two million visitors annually. This year there will be about 500,000.

After the speeches I had the opportunity to talk to him and I asked him if he could tell me more about future plans. He said only that other animal producers, crop producers, and universities were in discussions with Fair Oaks Farms and that things were in the works. I wondered how they could make a corn exhibit interesting, and from his reply it seemed that the people at Fair Oaks Farms had given that considerable thought. He asked me if I had written about their compressed natural gas (CNG) program. All the tour busses use it, as do the semis that haul milk to Kentucky dairies. There is a CNG station just north of Fair Oaks Farms where the trucks fuel up, and there is another station on the Kentucky/Indiana border where they fuel up for the return trip. The station is not open to the general public, but other companies contract with Fair Oaks Farms and can use the station. They need the right swipe card to make the pumps work. When Fair Oaks Farms produces too much CNG for its own use, it goes into the NIPSCO natural gas pipeline.

Fair Oaks Farms generates its own electricity. It uses generators at the individual farms. The hog farm does not have its own manure digesters but uses those at the dairy farms.

The next speaker was Brian Martin, a fifth generation hog farmer from Warren, Indiana and a member of the Indiana Pork Board of Directors. He said that Indiana Pork was planning a pig and pork education center at Fair Oaks Farms. I asked him to elaborate after the speeches were done and he said that it might start construction next spring and that it would be something similar to the visitors' center for the Dairy Adventure.

The final two speakers were Todd Rokita, the congressman for Indiana's fourth congressional district and formerly the Indiana Secretary of State, and Sue Ellspermann. Ms Ellspermann pointed out that the Lieutenant Governor's office oversees agriculture and tourism.
 After I had finished talking to several of the speakers, I sampled the pork products that were being served as a light lunch. (Update: The empty tray had a bacon item in it, and that fact that it was almost empty supports the title of this post.)
 And who could resist cookies this cute? (They look familiar.)
After a short wait, the Pig Adventure bus arrived and was quickly filled. The wonders that awaited us at the end of the short bus ride will have to wait for another post.
(Just a little more than a year ago the Pig Adventure had its ground breaking ceremony.)

Update: More picture here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your "review/report." I depend on you to keep me up to date on what's happening in our area.

Anonymous said...

2 million sounds like a lot of visitors each year. Do you know what the Dairy Farms bring in comparison?