It's no secret that the public doesn't understand agriculture– especially pork production. It's also no seceret as to the amount of problems that can cause the industry and individual producers.
Educating the public and building familiarity are not the answers, but they are places to start.
This summer, folks public visiting the Blank Park Zoo will get a sample of what modern pork production is like.
A new attraction– “Iowa’s Pig Exhibit,” sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association– opened last month and features sows farrowing every two weeks throughout the summer. There also are colorful displays to educate visitors about Iowa’s pork producers and the care they provide their animals.
“IPPA is thrilled to teamup with the Blank Park Zoo,” says Steve Kerns, IPPA president and a pork producer from Clearfield, Iowa. “This is one more way we can reach consumers to showcase Iowa agriculture and the best management practices that today’s pork producers use.”
“With the large number of urban visitors, the Zoo is the perfect setting to educate our guests about the importance of modern agriculture,” says Anne Shimerdla, Blank Park Zoo director.
An added attraction at the exhibit is a live webcam that lets anyone with Internet access to view the pigs at any time.
In a letter to the zoo, one Iowa grandmother wrote: “Today my five-year-old grandson and I watched Bonnie give birth to her babies via your webcam. I live far away from him and I am constantly thinking of new things that we can from a distance. We spoke on the phone at least 15 times. He's a Florida boy and rarely sees pigs … he has assigned me the task of finding some pigs to visit when he comes to Iowa this summer.”
The display also demonstrates management practices and equipment that producers use, and answers questions about raising hogs. The area is equipped with a flat-screen television that plays an upbeat, informational video on the pork industry and its commitment to animal welfare and environmental stewardship.
“Iowa’s Pig Exhibit” is the first step in developing what the zoo envisions as a much larger Ag Zoo. When completed, the display will feature beef cattle, poultry, goats, pigs, corn, soybeans and other agricultural products to show the life-cycle farms.
A slide show featuring the pigs at the zoo exhibit, as well as a link to the webcam, can be found at www.iowapork.org.
IPPA and Iowa Select Farms are sponsoring the exhibit. The Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science Department, Kent Feeds and the Des Moines Park and Recreation Department are providing support.