Russiaville farmer David Etherington and Indiana Pork wanted to open the curtains and show those not connected with farming how a modern operation works.
“It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for awhile,” he told HAT. “We’re hearing more and more about food transparency and about food being raised behind closed doors and out of sight, so we felt like it was important to try and get the public in and show them what we’re doing and feeling a grasp for how we do things.”
After lunch and presentations a barn tour was offered and Etherington said “People are pleasantly surprised at how nice the animals look, how clean they are, and how well they’re housed, and I think all the comments I’ve heard today have been positive. I think it’s been a good experience for them”
Greg Slipher at Indiana Farm Bureau shared some of the data that demonstrates the impact on local economies. In Howard County agriculture only uses 23 cents of each dollar paid in property taxes, effectively subsidizing services for the rest of the county. Additionally the average hog barn a resident passes on the road is responsible for 17 jobs in that region.
Ben Wicker is Indiana Pork’s Director of Producer Outreach. He made a brief presentation to show “the environmental protections that are in place, the regulations that they follow, and the conscious effort that goes into, particularly related to the management of the manure and that nutrient cycling, and how they’re able to take the manure that’s generated on their farm and return that back to the soil as a useful and valuable crop nutrient and reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers and the benefit that that then turns around and provides to their crop operations.”
It was an eye-opening day for the guests at the 9,000 head operation. Will there be more of these?
“Absolutely!” says Wicker. “I think that this has been a good launching place and a good first event and has given us the feedback that we needed to convince us that this is something that we can and should do in other places in the state to spread that message of agriculture and the pork industry’s strength and what that can bring to a local community.”
Check the HAT video for more with Wicker, Slipher and Etherington.