Adventure Awaits at Fair Oaks Farm
The miracle of life happens on a huge scale at Fair Oaks Farms’ Pig Adventure.
Each day, approximately 250 pigs are born at the 33,000-acre attraction located in Newton County in northwestern Indiana. Approximately 2,800 mature sows (adult female pigs) are in various phases of producing piglets, while 800 unbred gilts (young sows), ranging in size from 15 to 300 pounds, wait in the wings. At the interactive facility, visitors can observe real pigs and participate in hands-on activities.
“Our goal at Pig Adventure is to educate consumers about the pork industry the way Fair Oaks has done with its Dairy Adventure,” says Malcolm DeKryger, owner and president of Belstra Milling Company in DeMott. He and Belstra’s employees designed, built and operate the Pig Adventure, which opened in August 2013.
The genesis of the Pig Adventure was in 1999 when four farmers who owned a combined 12,000 dairy cows formed Fair Oaks Dairy Farm. Five years later, wanting to introduce the average consumer to the everyday work of a dairy, the group created a nonprofit tourism venture called Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure.
Through tours and innovative exhibits, the Dairy Adventure invites visitors to view a dairy operation in every stage, from cows producing milk to giving birth.
In 2011, the group began plans to expand Fair Oaks Farms.
“We love our cows, but we saw the bigger picture and thought we could maybe educate folks on modern agriculture in the 21st century, how things are done,” Jed Stockton, Fair Oaks’ communications director, told Indiana Farm Bureau in an earlier interview. “How we can take care of the land, make more food with less land and less water, power our facilities without causing any irreparable damage to the environment?”
SEE MORE: Local Fare at Fair Oaks Farm
Belstra Milling already had an affiliation with Fair Oaks Farms, providing feed products for the dairy. They knew Belstra operates several pig farms and could use its knowledge to help manage the Pig Adventure.
A visit to Pig Adventure includes a self-guided walking tour behind glass with guides strategically located to answers questions throughout. At each step of the tour, animals and people are separated to prevent the humans from spreading disease to the pigs. Special light systems cleanse the areas and high-efficiency particulate air filters capture potential viruses that could infect the pigs.
“We take air and biosecurity seriously,” DeKryger says. “From the beginning, our farm was designed to offer zero interference with production for the animals. With an elevated mezzanine, tourists can look down on the barn area and see employees caring for the pigs without the animals being aware of their presence.”
Other components of Fair Oaks Farms include Dairy Adventure activities such as Mooville, an outdoor play area for kids featuring a Dairy Air jumping pillow and the Udder Heights 25-foot milk bottle; Green Gate Garden with produce grown at the farm; a cheese factory; and a restaurant.
The number of visitors who tour Pig Adventure and Fair Oaks Farms is astounding. Since opening its doors a year ago, Pig Adventure has hosted 160,000 visitors.
Pig Adventure, which is located about 90 minutes from both major Chicago airports, offers shuttle buses between its state-of-the-art exhibits. Such accommodations lend themselves to comparisons with other prominent theme parks.
“People have compared our parks loosely to a Disney experience,” DeKryger says. “We hope Fair Oaks Farms will be viewed as a destination location. Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann has visited here many times, and she is excited about how Fair Oaks Farms highlights not only agriculture but also tourism and rural development.
“Our visitors represent all walks of life,” DeKryger says. “People think we host mostly school kids, but they make up less than one-third of our tourists. We have many social and international visitors. We also have a large number of former farmers and people who grew up on farms. They want to find out what technology has done to solve problems they had with agriculture and livestock 50 years ago.”
To enhance the Pig Adventure experience, its personnel conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for a pig and pork education center at Fair Oaks in May 2014. Plans are also in the works for an education center for seed technology that would discuss the connection between plants and genetic technology.
Although DeKryger did not grow up on a farm, he loved spending time on a relative’s farm. In college, he earned a master’s degree in swine nutrition and management before starting work at Belstra in 1999. He became president of the company in 2013. DeKryger says he speaks for the rest of the Belstra staff, many of whom have similar passions for and training in agriculture as himself, in encouraging people to visit Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms.
“The farming industry has advanced as fast as computers in the past couple of decades,” he says. “If someone thinks farming and raising livestock are what they were 40 years ago, Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms is a great place to change that opinion. People are always stunned at what we do.”
If You Go…
Fair Oaks Farm, 856 N. 600 E. in Fair Oaks, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. A one-day pass for both the pig and dairy adventures costs $25 for adults and $20 for both seniors and kids. Children ages 2 and under get in free, as do active members of the military. Discounts are available for large groups. For more information, call (877) 536-1194 or visit fofarms.com.