It was fitting that a Bacon Brothers concert, showcasing actor Kevin Bacon and his brother, Michael, capped off this summer’s grand opening celebration of Fair Oaks Farm’s Pork Education Center in Indiana… and not just because of the duo’s last name. The ag community can take a cue from the well-known “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, which measures how closely the actor is linked to another celebrity.
What if there were a “Six Degrees of Farming” game? How many steps would it take to link most consumers to a pork producer or another farmer? The answer’s probably more than we’d like in most instances. Farm and ranch families make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population today, and most of the other 98 percent are two generations – or likely more – removed from the farm.
Meanwhile, consumers want to know more about how the food they put on their tables was grown and raised. Programs such as the Pork Checkoff’s #RealPigFarming social media initiative and the new consumer-directed America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM award are helping to bridge the information gap. And as of June, Fair Oak’s new Pork Education Center, funded in part by a $2 million Pork Checkoff investment, also is helping to connect with consumers.
The center complements Fair Oak’s established Pig Adventure, which provides visitors a transparent look at a working farrow-to-weaning farm. Through interactive displays and a challenging rope-climbing course, the new 7,000-square-foot Pork Education Center focuses on all-things pork – from nutrition and recipes, to facts about responsible, sustainable pork production and pigs’ contribution to human medicine.
Debbie Burgess of Monee, Illinois, along with her daughter and grandchildren (pictured middle right) visited the Pork Education Center on its opening day. She appreciated how the center helped her grandkids associate the food at the grocery story to the farmers who raise it.
“I knew farmers growing up and learned firsthand about farming, but my grandkids haven’t had that opportunity,” Burgess said. “The center and other Fair Oaks attractions combine facts and fun to give them a perspective on how pigs are raised today. They really have been taking it all in.”
Each and every time pork producers connect with consumers is valuable. Together we can increase understanding and confidence in how pigs are raised today.
– Jan Jorgensen, Editor