FAIR OAKS, Ind. — Students from Michael Byrne Elementary School in Chicago went on a pig adventure at Fair Oaks Farms.
The Fair Oaks Pig Adventure leads off with the 7,000-square-foot pork education center. The center opened in June 2015 and offers signs and interactive games for children as a way to introduce visitors to pork production.
Shuttle buses take visitors from the pork education center to the Pig Adventure, which includes pork production from breeding to gestation and farrowing.
The Fair Oaks Farms Pork Education Center is the first step that visitors take into the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure.
The outside of the building includes the same large ventilation fans that visitors see on confinement buildings, along with a feed mill bin outside.
A large pig is a main attraction, with visitors stopping for photos with the giant porker before they enter the center. Inside, interactive games and informational and decorative murals introduce visitors to pork production.
“Bacon is going to save the world. I don’t know how, but it will,” is just one poster on a collage surrounding another pig statue before visitors board shuttles for a short drive to the actual live Pig Adventure.
The adventure is a sow and farrowing facility with a second story and viewing windows built over all phases of a sow farm, from gilt development to breeding, gestation and farrowing. At the end of the tour, students get to view newborn pigs and ask questions.
“Do they get along with their brothers and sisters?” “How come they’re shivering?” “Do they miss their mom?”
After students enter, they walk through a hallway designed like a shower, since most sow farms are shower-in, shower-out facilities. Farm employees take guests through into a gestation barn, where students start their tour by viewing pens of young gilts.
A brief, age-appropriate explanation of how the pig-breeding process works and students can view sows in the breeding and gestation rooms. The viewing rooms include hands-on activities so guests can put explanations with actions.
One of those hands-on activities is performing an ultrasound on a dummy sow. Guests can watch on a monitor as the ultrasound detects the unborn pigs in the sow and they get a printout of the ultrasound scan as a souvenir.
The Illinois Pork Producers Association partnered with the Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation, the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to offer grants to fourth-grade classrooms in Chicago schools to visit Fair Oaks Farms and the Fair Oaks Farms Pig Adventure.