A Chicago-area mom gave hog farmers John and Steve Ward the ultimate endorsement after touring their Sycamore farm Feb. 23. Her family hadn’t eaten pork for four years, but she said she planned to buy pork chops and serve them that evening.
Welcome to the second year of Illinois Farm Families (IFF) field moms a program for Chicago-area mothers who have questions about farming and how food is raised. IFF is a coalition of commodity groups for beef, corn, soybeans, pork, and the Illinois Farm Bureau.
John Ward, and his son, Steve, hosted the moms on a tour of their wean-to-finish farm. The elder Ward pointed out the moms weren’t the only ones who learned from the experience.
(left to right) Field moms Deb Moore, Susan Herold, and Renee Keats during a Feb. 23 tour at the John and Steve Ward farm near Sycamore. (Photo by Ken Kashian)
“We got a better idea of our consumers and their thoughts,” he said. “The moms were tremendous and had great questions.”
Steve took a direct approach to learn the women’s impression of his farm. He asked whether the facility was better or worse than what they had expected. “They all said it was way better,” he said.
Elizabeth Rago of North Aurora agreed with the group consensus. Rago was struck by the farm’s cleanliness and the amount of care the Wards give their animals, she said.
“They (the Wards) felt compelled to let us know they are doing their best to provide safe food for our families,” Rago said.
Amina Nevels of Chicago noted the hogs didn’t shy from Steve when he entered the pens and were inquisitive about their urban visitors.
“You could tell he (Steve) seemed to have a relationship with them,” Nevels added. “They seemed happy and contented. The farm looked great.”
Nevels said she appreciated the farmers’ willingness to answer any of the moms’ questions.
Nevels’ first experience on a farm and learning about the use of artificial insemination and other aspects of farming has raised more questions, she said. She still has concerns about biotechnology and looks forward to asking more questions, she said.
Rago connected with the family side of the Wards’ farm. “I love the fact these are regular people like us. We just have different vocations,” she said. “They’re really making a difference in the lives of people every day.”
Steve emphasized the moms’ importance to his farm: “I told the moms, ‘When it boils down to it, you guys are the backbone of our business.’ They need to feel safe about our product or they won’t buy it.”