While pork industry leaders will discuss a whole host of topics at this week’s Pork Industry Forum in Denver, among those leading the list for the National Pork Board (NPB) will be a request for financial support of a swine education center.

Specifically, the Fair Oaks Adventure Center and Belstra Milling have proposed building such an exhibit adjacent to the existing Fair Oaks Farms’ dairy facility. This idea has been part of NPB board members’ discussion for the past year, which included hiring a consultant to review the concept and the business plan.

Located in northwestern Indiana, “just outside of Chicago”, Fair Oaks Farms is a working farm owned by a group of dairy producers, including five families, as stated on the website. “One of the largest dairies in the country, our doors are open to families, schools, truckers and travelers alike - we want everyone to see how we operate and taste what we produce,” the group says.

That exhibit began in 2004 with the objective of providing a detailed, inside look at a working dairy farm, the processes and people involved, as well as the food products they produce. It draws some 500,000 visitors a year and hosts about 240,000 paid visitors. Those involve group tours (of 20 people or more) at $8 per person with reservations; the school rate is $5 per student. Both involve a three-hour tour, which includes things such as a bus tour of the dairy barns, the birthing barn, the 3D/4D movie and the educational exhibit halls.

The proposal under consideration is to add a 15,000-square-foot pork exhibit near the dairy exhibits, including a bus tour to a 2,500-sow farm, called Legacy Farm, as well as an education center. The overall exhibit would be called the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure. There also is a provision to include video and distance-learning options for teachers to access in their education plans.

Belstra Milling is proposing to build and own the pork production site. The company has provided a downsized version of the proposed swine center as it conducts education tours, and offers web-base video viewing of some of its own facilities in Indiana.

Last fall, NPB asked Indiana Pork to review the project proposal and the consultant’s assessment and refine the business plan, which will be on the board’s meeting agenda this week.  

The original project was estimated at $9.6 million, including permitting requirements, building costs for both the swine facilities and education center, tour costs and such. 

NPB President Everett Forkner has indicated the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure proposal will be one of the primary things on the board’s agenda on Thursday morning, March 1.

Fair Oaks’ long-term plans are to add beef, poultry and aquaculture production to the overall exhibit.