About a month ago I was invited to spend the day with some Minnesota pork producers in a reverse Farm to Fork tour. Of course, being the pork lover that I am, I said yes. Actually, I think when I got the initial email from Oink Outings I yelled something like “HELL YES!” at my computer screen. Because really. Foodies and bacon. What’s not to love?
A little background about me- I moved to rural suburb of Minneapolis when I was 12. We moved into a new development in the middle of dairy farm country and I never could shake the fact that I didn’t belong there- I was the “city” girl. I have never set foot on a working farm in my life. But, I like to eat. I like to eat good food. I like to eat good food that is produced locally.
So, our little group of 4 bloggers (One Tomato, Two Tomato, The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, This Heart of Mine and myself) along with a couple of women from a local running club set out to meet the great folks representing Minnesota Pork Producers for the day.
First up, we had a fantastic cooking demo by local Chef Julian Grainger of the Minneapolis Hilton. I am a huge fan of Banh Mi so when he told us he would be preparing a Banh Mi Tian I was thrilled. I already posted the recipe for the Napa Slaw over on the Minnesota Mom blog, I hope to get around to posting the rest of the recipe, it was awesome.
After the cooking demo we were taken on a tour of the inner workings of the hotel. It was pretty impressive to say the least. Having worked in retail for 15 years, I love to see the guts of an establishment. It’s almost more interesting than what’s out front for everyone to see. Seeing the Silver Room with row upon row of silver was interesting, kind of a look back in time.
After the tour we ended in The Gallery Room where we had an amazing lunch.
The Feta and Watermelon Salad with Fried Prosciutto:
The Pork Banh Mi Tian:
The Pecan Maple Bacon Ice Cream with a Bacon Lollipop Baked in Brown Sugar:
(Total Food Porn)
After lunch we loaded up into a van and headed south to Wakefield Farms in LaFayette. It was possibly the longest hour and a half drive of my life and I was never so excited to get out and smell the fresh air of a pig farm. (Note to self: you did not outgrown getting carsick. Do not ever volunteer to sit in the way back of any vehicle. Ever.)
The whole group!
Having never been on a farm and knowing absolutely nothing about how animals are raised, I was totally thrown by the fact that there were so many precautions taken before we could enter the farm.
– We could not be in contact with pigs from any other farm (or zoo, or petting zoo) within the last 3 days. (One member of our party had to wait for us outside because she had been on another farm within the last 3 days.)
– They had a shower in/ shower out procedure for everyone that worked there.
– There was a checklist of questions we all had to answer before we could enter.
– We had to wear coveralls and boots.
(Just to name a few things off the top of my head.)
Once we were all suited up we were taken through the different barns that make up a pig farm. I wasn’t shocked that the sows were kept in separate pens. Our absolute favorite thing (besides the food) at the State Fair is watching the different animals at the Miracle of Birth barn so I knew from that the safety reasons (for piglets and the sows) behind that.
Amy from This Heart of Mine.
We were able to see piglets just minutes after they were born in the farrowing barn, stumbling around on unsure legs, rooting for their teat. Did you know that each piglet chooses a teat and that is the only one they use until they are weaned? Crazy! Also: piglets are cute. We got what I have to say was one of the best Birds and Bees talks EVER in the breeding barn. And I learned more about the hows and whys of pig farming as we rounded up our tour in the finishing barn.
It was all pretty interesting to me.
The one fact that I brought back with me that Yogi Dad was the most excited about? You only have to cook pork to 145 degrees! All because of the safety and cleanliness precautions that are taken to protect the pigs from sickness and disease. Things that couldn’t happen if the pigs were roaming free or kept outside.
After our tour we piled back in the van (I sat up front) and we hightailed it north to Minneapolis. It was a fun day and I absolutely recommend checking out Oink Outings if you get a chance.
All photos courtesy of the Oink Outings Facebook Page.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my time while touring with the Oink Outings group. All opinions are my own.