By: Sam Wildman
Whenever I speak about raising pigs, being a pig farmer or pork in general, I try to build a bridge over the gap of misunderstanding between producers and consumers. Some of the ways I build this bridge is through my blogs, farm pictures, and simple words of what I do and why I do it. The Ohio State Fair presented itself to me as a great way to promote agriculture, specifically the pork industry.
I spent a day at the great Ohio State Fair over the weekend to help promote agriculture and pork to the youth of our great state through the Agriculture Is Cool program. The program allows fourth-grade students from all across the state to come to state fair for a day and bring their parents along. The requirement is that they must go to each livestock and several commodities exhibits and learn about what makes those groups special to agriculture.
I was expecting to be faced with hundreds of children who were only interested in getting their stamp and seeing the pigs. What I quickly found out was that parents were more interested in the exhibit than the children. The Ohio Pork Producers Council has provided an interactive, “hands-on” hog barn that allows everyone to see how a modern day unit looks on the inside. There was also a sow and litter available to see and pet the piglets.
This combination of activities aroused many questions from children and their parents. The most common questions were:
• Is that a common sized number of babies?
• Do the babies nurse off the same nipple every time?
• How many pigs can live in this type of barn?
• Are the pigs happy inside?
• How do they stay cool and warm up?
I was able to answer these questions with confidence because I’ve spent my life around barns and pigs. I was more than happy to answer any question and spent time with several parents talking about how pork is healthy and that it is safe to buy.
The message I was trying to send to the parents — “consumers who purchase food for their families” — is that MEAT IS GOOD, HEALTHY, SAFE and RAISED WITH CARE. Every parent I talked to left the building with a smile on their face and an information sheet about how to find more information about modern pork production, pork recipes, meat quality, animal safety and how to get more questions answered.
I think I made several positive connections to consumers, parents and children, and built many important bridges. I am very impressed with the success so far of the Agriculture Is Cool program and am glad to be a part of such an amazing industry as Ohio agriculture.
I also learned things from the people I talked with. All my training tells me that people are concerned to know that 1) their food is safe, and 2) the animals are cared for and treated properly. Some of the questions that were asked would never have occurred in my mind, and I’m glad they asked, because it helps me build a better response for the next time. I have volunteered to work another day at the exhibit before state fair is over and I can’t wait until then to see what other questions and concerns I can clear up while building bridges.
Sam Wildman is a junior at The Ohio State University studying agribusiness and economics with a minor in agriculture communications. He is active on his family farm where they raise approximately 650 sows as part of our farrow-to-finish hog operation and we also have 600 acres of crops.He is also the barn manager for the Steps To Your Dreams Foundation, a group of therapists that uses horses for hippo therapy with special needs children. Sam is an active agvocate for Ohio agriculture and, as a part of that, blogs at ohiofarmkid.blogspot.com/.
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