The pork production portion of the new Fair Oaks Pig Adventure Center in Indiana is on a fast-track to get underway. Owned and operated by Belstra Milling, the 2,400-head sow farm, nursery and gilt development site will begin construction by April or May, according to Malcolm DeKryger, vice president and business development director at Belstra.

“We have been seriously planning and designing the facility for about a year now,” he notes. “We expect to produce 75,000 to 80,000 weaned pigs per year at the facility. We will also have a breeding-gestation barn. Visitors will be invited to watch about 250 baby pigs born per day.” The facility is just off I-65 about 1 hour outside of Chicago.

Longer-term, there are plans to include a pork education center on the Fair Oaks Farms’ “main campus”, which already houses a dairy center. The education and visitors center is located about a mile or two away from the proposed pork production site.

The cost for the total package is estimated at $9.6 million, of which the National Pork Board has committed $1 million toward the education center, with another $1 million once the $7.6 million remaining funds have been secured.   

The production site will include a glass enclosed observation deck above the production floor. The new state-of-the-art facility will feature filtered heating-ventilation-air-conditioning HVAC systems. DeKryger notes.  “The construction is expected to take about 14 months. The new facility will definitely stimulate the local economy and we expect to have something the U.S. pork industry can be very proud of,” he adds.

Belstra Milling and Fair Oaks Farm presented the proposal to NPB about a year ago. The board conducted a thorough review, visited the site, even held its January meeting at Fair Oaks Farms to determine its long-term involvement, says John Johnson, NPB’s vice president strategic administration.

The goal is to address the understanding and exposure of the public at large to modern pork production, Johnson points out. “We know that most Americans today are generally or geographically removed from agriculture. Most people have no idea what goes on with modern production agriculture,” he adds.

“This display will help them understand why modern, 21st century pork production is the moral and ethical choice for people on the planet, and that pork producers are committed to continuous improvement,” Johnson says.

Many of the 500,000 or so visitors that Fair Oaks Farms host each year are school groups.  Johnson and NPB sees that as an opportunity to extend the Pig Adventure Center’s knowledge-base and impact. Pointing to teachers, Johnson notes that “they will have many more classes to teach. So their image of modern agriculture will be enhanced…and their visit will bear fruit in terms of how they educate kids and the images they portray about modern pork production to the kids.”

The center also will offer the opportunity to connect with and educate pork’s food-chain partners such as grocers, restaurateurs, chefs and others. “There is a wide range of audiences that we hope to educate with this facility once it’s completed,” Johnson says.