Every fall 4th graders from schools across Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster and Saunders counties board school buses and head down to visit the Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead to learn about agriculture. Students learn about beef, dairy, grains, swine, production technology and agricultural products. This festival has been an annual event since 1996 and has helped educate more than 10,000 students about agriculture.
This year I got to take part in this fun festival, and accompanied Kyla on the Friday afternoon of the festival to help teach 4th graders about pork. We taught them basic pork vocabulary, talked about all the great foods and products that come from pork, and showed them a miniature version of a finishing barn.
The Ag Awareness Festival is especially important because many of today’s elementary students in urban areas have an increasing disconnect with agriculture and little knowledge of where their food comes from. These students are bright kids and enthusiastic to learn more, and some of their questions took me by surprise. I’ll share with you a few of their questions:
Q: How big can a pig snout get?
A: It depends on the breed of pig and how old it is. Pigs have very strong snouts because in the wild they root around for food. Also as pigs get older their snouts continue to grow.
Q: Why do all the girls here wear sparkly belts?
A: I like to wear my sparkly belt with my boots whenever I’m showing hogs. Today’s a little different, I’m showing you guys lots of cool stuff about hogs!
Q: How long can pigs live?
A: Most pigs only live to be about six months old, after which they are sent to packing plants to be processed into all the pork foods you love to eat. However, a pig lifespan could be up to around 14 years.
Q: How do pigs get pregnant?
A: Just like any other species of animals it takes two to tango. Each piglet is a unique combination of the genes from the sow, the mother pig, and the boar, the father pig.
Q: Where do the dad pigs go?
A: Hogs on farms are always separated by gender to keep the pigs comfortable. One boar will the father to hundreds of piglets. We keep them separated so that the sow can do a better job taking care of her piglets.