The farm groups should work together! That’s a message that’s been heard at IL Corn on more than one occasion. We’ve been listening to the concerns of Illinois corn farmers and happy to report that this is an area where we can report significant progress. Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Pork Producers Association, and the Illinois Soybean Association have pooled resources to bring the Illinois Farm Families (IFF) effort to life!
The following is a report about a recent activity of IFF including “Field Moms.” Field Moms is the term used to describe the women chosen to participate in the farm tours. These women are all influential within their communities. They all have children and are very concerned about their food.
Earlier this month, six Illinois Farm Families® Field Moms loaded up a bus and headed west to tour Gould Farms in Maple Park, Ill. The tour gave the Field Moms a chance to get their questions about modern hog production answered by a farmer who lives it day in and day out.
But before they reached the farm, the Field Moms had a chance to chat with hostesses Pam Janssen, a hog producer from Minonk, Ill., and Deb Moore, a corn, soybean and beef farmer from Roseville, Ill. During the trip to the farm, Janssen and Moore answered questions ranging from hog production to the upcoming Farm Bill.
The tour of Gould’s farm came at a time when pork producers across the country are feeling the pinch — falling just after McDonald’s announcement to review the use of gestation crates on their producers’ farms.
“We were ready to answer their questions about gestation crates, but they really didn’t ask about the crates until we did,” said Chris Gould. “The Field Moms really just wanted to know about pork production in general. They were asking how we do it and why we do it, but they weren’t contentious. They didn’t ask finger-in-the-chest type questions.”
Still, to help answer the tough questions the moms might have about modern pork production and gestation crates, Janeen Salak-Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor in animal sciences at the University of Illinois was on hand.
And, while Dr. Salak-Johnson regularly speaks at swine industry events and with producers, she said she was still a bit uneasy about presenting her research on sow housing directly to consumers.
“I was concerned when the Illinois Pork Producers asked me to do this because people always say you can’t win an emotional argument with science,” Dr. Salak-Johnson said. “But the moms received the data very well. I think they understood what my research shows — that each pig is different. What works for a sow may not necessarily work for a young pig or a boar. And for the sows more space doesn’t necessarily equate to quality of space. Beyond their physical space, sows need space that means something for them. The Field Moms could see the sows were cared for and had the quality of life to perform the things they needed to.”
Both Gould and Dr. Salak-Johnson said the Field Moms responded to the information they provided with genuine interest and curiosity, and asked thoughtful, educated questions during the tour and presentations.
For more information about Illinois Farm Families, or to read the most recent blog entries about the Field Moms’ experience, visit our website at http://www.watchusgrow.org/_blog/Illinois_Farm_Families_Blog.