10 months, 1 week ago from thonline.com
Chicago-area mothers see farming operations up close
From from thonline.com:
The sows were due to give birth in a matter of days or even hours, a fact betrayed by their strained facial expressions and plump bellies. As a group of women walked through the Kane County, Ill., hog barn's equivalent of a maternity ward, one of them paused for a moment of cross-species empathy.
"I remember those days," she said.
The 20 or so women, all Chicago-area mothers, were on a tour last month at the fragrant structure where about 750 sows give birth to thousands of piglets each year. Visits like these represent a change in tack for America's conventional farmers, many of whom believe their work is unfairly portrayed in popular culture and poorly understood by the masses.
Amid a growing realization that many suburban and urban dwellers have little firsthand knowledge of agriculture, farm bureaus in Illinois' Lake and Cook counties send speakers to schools for lessons on everything from farm economics to where sausage comes from. Some organizations also offer summer programs that take teachers to farms.
By opening his family's hog and grain operation to last month's tour, Eldon Gould hoped to give the mothers a better sense of where their dinner originates while allaying any fears about larger-scale farms.
The farmers answered the women's questions -- including a few on hotly debated topics -- and told how, with any luck, the newborns they saw would be sold as pork chops within a year.
"I think there's so much misinformation out there that we try to bring a little truth to it," said Gould, a farmer for more than 50 years who tends the plot outside Maple Park with his family.
Cornfields and hog barns dot wide swaths of the American landscape, and Illinois is home to some of the world's most productive farmland. But with technology's advances and suburbia's sprawl, only a sliver of the population still earns a living off the land.
Even with fewer people tending the soil, interest in food's origins might be at an all-time high. Words like "organic" and "natural" dot grocery shelves, many times with the clear implication that such offerings are more wholesome than others. Some consumers also have expressed concerns with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, that are ubiquitous in American crop farming but regulated more strictly in the European Union.