FAIR OAKS | The folks at Fair Oaks Farms, Belstra Milling Co. and the newly created Legacy Farms embarked on an adventure Tuesday with 300 people cheering them.
The official groundbreaking for Legacy Farms' pig production facility and Pig Adventure, an agritourism program that will mimic Fair Oaks' successful Dairy Adventure, drew Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and several political well-wishers as well as pork producers and those vested in the undertaking.
"This is a wow moment from my vantage point," Skillman said of the pig production and tourism venture.
Malcolm DeKryger of Legacy Farms described what will be a 2,700-sow operation producing 75,000 lean pigs annually in a 110,000-square-foot production area with a second-floor mezzanine for visitor viewing.
After DeKryger's presentation, Skillman offered numbers of her own.
Skillman said the "economic engine" of agriculture brings $26 billion to the state's economy each year, and $3 billion of that is from pork production.
The Pig Adventure, its tours and educational center are well supported, Skillman said.
"Agritourism is a very important part of our development plans across the state," she said.
The aim of the newest part of the Fair Oaks Farms complex off Interstate 65 at Exit 220 is to not only produce pigs but bring consumers closer to the process.
Gary Corbett, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, said fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in agricultural production.
"We felt it was important to engage the 98 percent," he said.
Michael Platt of Indiana Park will serve as president of the Pig Adventure.
Platt, a native of Washington, D.C., said he was one of the majority of Americans distanced from food sources.
"I was in my 40s before I had my first conversation with a farmer," he said. "That's why the adventure will address what pig producers do, how they do it and why."
DeKryger said the glassed-in mezzanine feature above the production area will allow visitors to look down on "all the production, all of the time."
Visitors will see births, ultrasounds performed and more. At the Dairy Adventure, "people will sit for hours watching life begin" in the birthing center, he said, and Legacy wants that same experience for its visitors.
That's why Chuck Wildman of Standing Oaks Enterprises, an Ohio pig operation, said he's one of the producers who will be getting his pigs from Legacy.
"I'm involved because ... it will be transparent. It's the first of its kind," he said. "We want folks to see that human and animal interaction, to experience it for themselves."
Fair Oaks Farms is the country's largest agritourism destination. Legacy Farms at Fair Oaks Farms will be funded, built and owned by Belstra Milling of DeMotte.
The touring and educational components will be managed and operated by Fair Oaks Farms. Visitors will take a shuttle bus from Fair Oaks' main parking area to the nearby pig farm.