I always find it interesting to find out how things are done. To pay a visit to another location and see how things are done. Being in the meat industry, of course I love to view other plants. I walk in with a good basic understanding on the process and can view the various alterations they make to accomplish their goal. On the other hand, I love to get the opportunity to view locations that have nothing to do with my industry. For example, to be able to view how a screw manufacturing plant works is also interesting to me.
A chance to take a small behind the scenes tour is coming up soon. On June 10, 2012 University of Illinois Extension Winnebago County will be hosting their Openfields Farm Tour. This is a self-guided tour that allows individuals to drive from farm to farm and view what goes on at each farm. If nothing else, this is a great time to at least take a drive in the country. Even living out in the country, I still like to drive past farms and livestock out in pasture. I like to take a look at old barns and think of the engineering that goes into making that structure withstand years of the elements.
Once I get done enjoying my drive to the farm though, I get a chance to see the farmers in their element. Working with a lot of livestock producers, I get to visit with them in my plant, but to see them at their home, where they are the most comfortable, is a great experience. To be able to learn their history, how they came to be doing what they do, and all the stories that go along with their business. To be able to view how they produce the product they sell to the public. I can get a view into their business plan; see if they have an answer to something that I don’t. You can see how their daily lives can affect others. It really is a great learning experience for everyone involved.
The tours run from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and they are self-guided. You can move as slow or as fast as you want. In years past, I have seen three to four farms on the day. If you really are fascinated with the workings on one farm, you can spend all four hours there. If you want to grab lunch from a local restaurant, you can do that also. It really is a great experience to view what is out there to be seen and get a behind the scene view of someone else’s life. Details about the Openfields farm tour can be found on the Extension’s website or by calling the Extension office at (815) 986.4357.
Tom Eickman, a third-generation meat processor, is co-owner of Eickman’s Processing Co. in Seward. He is a past president of the Illinois Association of Meat Processors, and is a founding member of the Local Foods Work Group at the University of Illinois Extension–Winnebago County. He blogs about local foods at blogs.e-rockford.com/gogreen.