My Quest to Educate Myself about Local Farms

January 13, 2017

piglet

My quest to further educate myself {and my family} about local Illinois farms started when I recently enjoyed an insider's journey into Wards Farm in Sycamore, Illinois. The Wards Farm is a family grain and pork farm located 55 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois. I was able to learn all about the Wards Farm's history, agriculture, land preservation and sustainable food production from their family.

Agricultural roots run deep in this father-son Ward team as the 7th generation runs the farm today. Raising hogs has been a family business for over 150 years. The Wards Farm is a wean to finish hog operation. I was able to take a personalized tour of the finishing buildings with Steve Ward -- not open to the public -- where I was able to feel like a privileged insider peeking inside to witness the hard work that goes into the hog operation.

Before I arrived, I just assumed the hogs would be free-range. I never considered that the hogs would be kept in finishing buildings. These buildings are quite elaborate and there is a delicate balance between the nursery and the finishing buildings that house the hogs until their ideal weight is met. I was informed of the purpose of each building as well as how the Wards have changed their buildings throughout the years in order to improve the life of the hog. The Wards have created an environment that is the best for the hogs.

Because of bio-security issues, I couldn't simply just go walking about these buildings at my leisure. I was suited up and properly covered to ensure the health of these hogs. I was able to fully grasp why pens are used on the in-depth tour of these buildings.

After the informative tour of the finishing buildings, our small group headed inside to have a chat with Illini Farms and Farmland®. Illini Farms actually birth the piglets and keep them with their sows until they are ready to move to Wards Farm for finishing. The piglets arrive at approximately 12-14 pounds and leave at approximately 250-300 pounds. This all takes place in a six-month span.

Farmland is the end of the production line for the hogs. Farmland processes quality all-natural pork products that are locally born and grown. Farmland's excitement for the pork product and enthusiasm at creating new and inventive dishes utilizing the entire animal is truly fantastic.

I think that as adults we take the concepts we have as children to keep a visual alive in our heads. In our perfect visualized stories we hear of pigs frolicking about with rats, geese and spiders and we forget these animals are not cute, cuddly pets to be coddled, nurtured and loved. Instead, these hogs {on Wards Farm} are valued, cared for and provided with the best conditions to be raised as food for consumption.

We are not going to quit eating and there are more people everyday. The Wards Farm will continue for generations and we need to support local farmers in our local economy and most importantly, remember that our local farmers have the highest possible standards of animal welfare.

 

Teresa Buse

Teresa is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms.

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