Terrific weather + cute little piglets + a beautiful location added up to a fun peek into the pork industry. If you’d told me a while back that I’d wind up really enjoying a visit to South Dakota, I might not have believed you. My knowledge of the state prior to my visit was embarrassingly limited to grade school geography. However, discovering new places is one of my favorite things and I will certainly be bringing my family back to South Dakota one day.
Last month, I was invited to visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota with The National Pork Board. As you know, I rarely turn down the chance to learn more about our food chain and I love that this job gives me the opportunity to learn so much about the food industry. Prior to this trip, my knowledge of the pork industry was limited to my love of crispy bacon, Sweet and Tangy Pulled Pork, Carnita Street Tacos, and these Balsamic Dijon Pork Chops.
I arrived in Sioux Falls on an absolutely gorgeous September afternoon. I left behind Phoenix temperatures of 100+ and I couldn’t have asked for better weather for this visit. Our driver from the airport insisted that we visit Falls Park in Sioux Falls during our quick visit and I promised that we would. This desert girl loves a good rainstorm and I kept my fingers crossed that we’d see a bit of the forecasted sprinkling while in South Dakota. We lucked out with just enough rain to keep it nice and cool through our visit without drenching us.
The sky was gorgeous that first night and we walked through Falls Park on our way to the Stockyards Ag Experience Barn. The Stockyards Ag Experience tells the story of agricultural impact in this region, beginning with the Sioux Falls Stockyards. The exhibit is inside a renovated barn and it takes the visitor on a journey through the history of the Stockyards from its opening in 1917 to its closure in 2009. This exhibit highlights the Stockyards’ influence in history, economy, and society.
Vibrant historical images and high-tech interactive displays bring history to life and give the visitor a look inside the complex that has meant so much to agriculture in Sioux Falls and beyond. This is a dynamic, interactive learning center for people of all ages. I really wish my kids had been there with me. It’s the ultimate hands-on experience for kids and adults and this homeschool-mama would have loved to turn my boys loose in there.
The next day we toured a pig farm, held our fair share of little piglets, and met some great farmers. I was impressed with everything we saw at Pipestone System and Overskei Farms, impressed on a level that I hadn’t expected. Pig farming is quite the scientific operation. The biological controls in place to ensure the health of the animals was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Hearing the stories of multiple generations of pig farmers and seeing how hard they work to educate the public was fascinating. Pig farming has changed a great deal over the past 20-30 years. The facilities that we toured at each farm were modern high tech facilities. The scientists and nutritionists on staff at each facility monitor everything about each animal from food and water consumption all the way to remotely controlling the temperature of the room where each sow and piglets live. The living environments are designed for the most comfortable conditions possible.
Sylvia Wolters with Pipestone System is the brilliant creator of Pipestone Discovery Barn. The Discovery Barn is a spectacular showcase of the local agriculture. While visiting the barn, you might witness a live cow or sow birth, bottlefeed a calf, or watch baby chickens hatch. There are farmers from the pork, dairy, and poultry industry in the barn throughout the fair just to answer your questions.
Side note: don’t be fooled by slick packaging in the stores. Despite efforts to educate the public otherwise, some pork packaging labels today still claim that the animals were raised without hormones. However, ALL pigs today are raised without added hormones. It is illegal to use added hormones in pig farming.
If you’re anywhere near Sioux Falls in August, you’ll want to plan a visit to the Sioux Empire Fair. I’ve found nothing that compares with this kind of opportunity to experience these events for yourself.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about pig farming in general, you can find out more at Pork.org.
Disclosure: I’ve partnered with National Pork Board to share this information with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.