Compident- Fair Oaks Farm

Close to Chicago in the US there is a unique show farm called "Fair Oaks Pig Adventure". People who want to see for themselves, what modern group housing means in practice, should visit that location. A glass platform allows to experience the whole gestation process with Schauer ESF, as well as farrowing and insamination piglets area of that welfare friendly 2500 head sow farm. With the first two weeks, already more than 10.000 prospects visited the Fair Oaks Pig Adveture farm.

At Fair Oaks Pig Adventure, visitors can see the Compident electronic sow feeding system in action.

Fair Oaks adds Pig Adventure (2/24/2012)
By Sarah Muirhead 

The Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure, a one-of-a-kind agri-tourism destination that has been successfully telling the dairy industry's story to non-farm visitors since 2004, will soon also be home to a first-of-its-kind pig farm and education center if all goes as planned. Actually, long-term plans call for the Fair Oaks campus in northwestern Indiana to include beef, poultry and aquaculture production sites in addition to the existing dairy and soon-to-be pork farm.

The proposed Fair Oaks Pig Adventure will include a pork education center and a nearby commercial swine farrowing/gestation operation suitable for touring. The pig site will be positioned as a national destination where visitors can see and feel the pork industry's "We Care" principles in a first-of-its-kind of way. The Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure already draws some 500,000 visitors annually. Some have called it the "agricultural Disney," and school groups, families, teachers, retailers, nutritionists, restaurateurs and others from around the world come to have fun while learning about animal agriculture. The Fair Oaks Pig Adventure will simply build upon that model, said Michael Platt, executive director of Indiana Pork and president of the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure organizing board. It is a proven concept that has visitors spending money to tour and learn about animal agriculture in a very positive and fun way, he noted. With nearly half of the dairy facilities' visitors last year experiencing the full tour -- which includes the educational center for dairy as well as a bus tour through the commercial dairy -- it is estimated that by bringing in additional species to the farm, the number of annual tour visitors can be doubled.

"The level of trust consumers have in pork farmers will increase as they see firsthand the ways in which the animals are handled and cared for in a modern swine farm environment," Platt said.

From look-in corridors above the live hog operation, visitors will be able to see how swine farming practices facilitate pork production in an environmentally friendly way. "It is all about transparency and giving consumers permission to be comfortable with modern pork production," said Malcolm DeKryger of Belstra Milling, a feed and pork production company based in DeMotte, Ind.

It also is about showcasing for consumers the things pork farmers are doing to provide their animals with the best care possible, DeKryger added. The plan is for visitors to interact with the workers who actively care for the pigs and for their questions to be answered by expert practitioners. The pork education center will contain interactive educational exhibits for viewing before and/or after the Pig Adventure tour. It will join the dairy educational building, birthing barn and cheese factory/restaurant on the main campus. Organizers anticipate that "Pork. Be Inspired" messaging will be incorporated into the pork education center. The plan is for the center to clearly demonstrate where pork comes from and provide an opportunity to further develop relationships with meat packers, suppliers and others in the food chain.

Distance learning is another component of the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure. Organizers said plans are for the swine tour facilities to be constructed so that it is possible for teachers and students in classrooms anywhere to be connected to the farm via video conferencing, providing direct contact with farm workers engaged in daily work activities. The goal is for students to be able to have their questions answered directly by people practicing animal husbandry management.

As for the business specifics, organizers said a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 corporation doing business as Fair Oaks Pig Adventure has been established to direct and coordinate all creative development, design and fund-raising for the project. Upon completion, the entity will enter into a management agreement with Fair Oaks Farms to provide all related tour operations.

The live hog farm will be named Legacy Farm and will be a fully functioning and commercially viable 2,400-sow farrowing/gestation operation that is funded, built, owned and operated by Belstra Milling. Legacy Farm will have an operating agreement with the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure on the use of the tour/educational portion of the facility.

The total project investment for the educational/tour component is estimated at $9.6 million, which includes start-up costs for the farm tour/education elements and code/regulations required for construction and operations for the visitor-friendly center as well as construction of the pork education center and its educational elements. Belstra Milling will cover costs associated with construction of the commercial facility and all associated operations related to pig production. Jon Hoek of Belstra Milling noted that Legacy Farm will be an ESF (electronic sow feeding) operation. He said the decision was made after much research and thought, and it is the option that provides for sow comfort and welfare while maintaining production efficiency.

"Our choice in systems is in no way an endorsement of one particular housing system over another. It is simply what we chose to go with in this particular facility," Hoek said. Platt explained that support from industry stakeholders will be critical in order for this unique educational venue to become a reality. "The facilities are being built with the express purpose of informing and educating the public in an entertaining manner on the way pork is produced in the U.S. It is something that the entire pork industry will benefit from," he said. The Fair Oaks Pig Adventure is projected to start turning a profit after the second year. As a not-for-profit, all associated revenue will be reinvested in the operation or used to similarly educate the public in other ways. Dennis Sargent will head up fund-raising for the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure. He can be reached at (317) 294-7614 or dsargent@inpork.org.