Every year, Illinois Farm Bureau pairs farmers with Chicago classrooms through their Adopt A Classroom program. The farmers and teachers work together to share letters, pictures, videos, and classroom visits to help give urban students a better understanding of agriculture and rural life.
Last fall I signed up for the program and was paired with a 4th grade classroom in Tinley Park. I have been emailing the teacher back and forth, sending pictures, and sharing my blog (they loved Flat Aggie!). While we had a bit of a slow start, I was so excited to open my mailbox yesterday and find a packet full of letters from each student!
The class just had an Ag in the Classroom presentation a few weeks ago, so they were full of questions for me about our farm and agriculture in general. I can’t wait to write back to the students, but in the mean time, I thought it might be fun to share some of their questions here. (I’m not kidding- they are the sweetest questions. Every single one made me smile!) Plus it gives me a fun little chance to share some tidbits about our farm in a little different way.
Here’s what they asked:
What crops do you grow, and do you have cows?
William grows both corn and soybeans. We do not have any cows of our own, but my dad and grandpa raise a small herd of cattle together.
Do you have any other animals besides pigs?
In addition to pigs, we also have goats, chickens, and ducks on the farm. And what would a farm be without cats and dogs? We have a few barn cats running around and 3 dogs.
How many pigs do you own?
Our numbers always seem to be changing, but right now we have about 15 sows (momma pigs), 4 boars (male pigs), and way too many young pigs to count! We just had 9 litters of piglets born, so there are piglets everywhere. I love it though- the babies are so cute!
When did you start your farm?
Both of us grew up in multi-generational farm families. However, William purchased the farm we live on now about 5 years ago. He moved the sows from his grandpa’s farm in Manito to here at that time.
What kind of books do you like?
Oh my gosh this was one of my favorite questions! I really like suspense novels, but I love love love children’s agricultural books. If I had to pick my favorite, it would be All Pigs are Beautiful by Dick King Smith. I may just have to send them a copy of this one. It’s such a cute little story about the author’s love for pigs, and it is filled with lots of cute little facts that make it fun learning about them.
What time do you get up in the morning?
The Ag in the Classroom presenter must have shared that farmers have to get up early to do their chores, because I think this question was asked at least 20 times! Admittedly, I do NOT like to wake up early. William and I both work full time off the farm (he is an Ag teacher, and I work in the office for an agricultural trucking company) so we both wake up around 6:30, go to work, and do chores when we get home.
Do you raise and milk cows? If you do, make sure you eat cheese. YUM!
I love to support dairy farmers by eating cheese, but we do not personally have any dairy cattle. Dairy cows have to be milked two to three times a day, so we wouldn’t be able to make that happen with our full time jobs.
Do you raise chickens? Do you bake cakes with the eggs?
Yes! I have somewhere around 20-30 chickens and ducks, and we use the eggs from both for eating and baking.
Do you have any horses because they are my favorite animals because they are soooooo cute!
I agree horses are very cute, but we don’t have any on our farm. William has some students with horses, so maybe we can get them to send the class a few pictures!
Do your pigs still jump in the mud in the winter?
If it’s a warm winter, they love to lay down in the mud. But right now we have about 10 inches of snow on the ground, so there isn’t any mud to be found!
How do the pigs get warm?
Our barn is heated in the winter, so the pigs can stay nice and warm. The room the piglets are in stays around 70 degrees. As for the pigs outside, we have small houses to block the wind, and we make sure to give them lots of straw bedding to snuggle up in. The straw helps keep them warm and dry all winter long.
Do you raise your pigs all day?
Livestock farming is a full time job! We do not have to watch our pigs all day long, but we always have to make sure they have sufficient feed, water, and shelter. Sometimes we have to leave work to come home and check on things- especially if a sow decides to get out of her pen. (It’s happened more than once!)
How long have you been raising animals on the farm?
William has been raising pigs ever since he was a little boy. His grandpa got him started raising and showing pigs, and he spent as much time as he could helping his grandpa before moving the pigs here to the Walnut farm.
Do you guys sell your crops or do you just eat them? If you do sell them, how much money do you get?
We sell some of the corn and soybeans we grow, and keep the rest to feed our pigs. Most of the corn we grow is field corn, which is not eaten directly off the cob, but instead is used for livestock feed, ethanol, or can be ground up to go in many other food products. As for the money… Well let’s just say we don’t have a set income from our crops. The market is always changing, and the price of corn and soybeans varies from year to year.
Do you guys raise pigs to make bacon or just to raise?
We loooove bacon! We raise some of our pigs to show at fairs, and other pigs will be raised to make into pork products like sausage, bacon, and pork chops.
What are your piglets’ names?
We have too many pigs to be able to name them all, but some of our showpigs have names. Marshmallow, Belle, Mrs. Potts, and Chip are a few of the pigs with names.
Is it hard to do farm work?
Some chores are harder than others. Feeding isn’t too hard, but sometimes it can be a little time consuming. I think the hardest chore is carrying water buckets. I always seem to spill water everywhere! Those buckets sure are heavy.
How many people go to the farm a year?
We live on the farm where we raise our pigs, so we have people here quite often. However, we have to be careful about how many people we let walk into the barn. Pigs are very susceptible to diseases and sickness, so we have to make sure we don’t wear the same boots in our barn that may have been worn on other farms.
Do you have any kids?
We do not have any kids, but we always have William’s students coming over to help out. There is never a shortage of farmhands here!
Do you like farming?
We LOVE farming. It’s hard work, but we can’t imagine doing anything else. Farming is full of ups and downs. We have good days and bad days. But in the end, farming is incredibly rewarding. My favorite thing is when new piglets are born. We have to make sure our pigs are well fed and well cared for, and it shows when a sow gives birth to big healthy litter of piglets. Plus, who wouldn’t like getting to play with tiny piglets all the time?
That’s all their questions for now. Were they not the cutest? Answering questions and sharing stories about our farm is my favorite, and I love that William and I can take part in the Adopt a Classroom program. What was your favorite question from the students? Is there something you still want to know that they didn’t ask? Leave a comment below and let me know!