FAIR OAKS, Ind. — The Illinois Pork Producers Association, Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation, Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board partnered together to offer a new grant program, at no cost to fourth-grade classrooms in Chicago schools.

The grant allows the students to go to Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana and experience both the Pig and Crop Adventures.

Fair Oaks Farms brings education and entertainment together, creating a once in a lifetime experience. While there, students learn about agriculture, the environment and modern methods of sustainability in a family farm simulated atmosphere.

The first two tours were conducted on Sept. 23 and 30 with 300 students and teachers. The group started at the new Pork Education Center where students learned pig basics, and they then moved on to the Crop Adventure to learn about corn and soybeans and the role they play in a pig’s health.

“Pigs eat 74 percent of the soybean meal fed in Illinois, and animal agriculture is the top consumer of soybeans,” said John Hagenbuch, a farmer from Utica, Ill., and Illinois Soybean Association marketing committee chairman. “We want students to understand the connection between crops, pigs and their food. Supporting field trips to the Fair Oaks Farm Pig and Crop Adventures is a practical way to help.”

It was an eye-opening experience for both students and teachers alike, explained Diane Chathas, a teacher at Walker School in Bedford Park.

“This was the best field trip we have ever been on. Especially for my students (who have never been exposed to farm life), the impact was incredible. The birth of the piglets was the most amazing experience for all of us,” Chathas said.

Each student walked away with a wealth of new information from learning what a pig eats, how sharp a piglet’s teeth can be, to how a farmer must shower before going into a barn to protect the pigs from disease.

But the true highlight according to many of the student surveys was watching a piglet being born, something most students have never seen before.

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