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Visiting pig farms from the comfort of the classroom

Ohio farmers open their farms to students

By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content

Students across Ohio schools are visiting pig farms in the state without leaving the classroom or dirtying their clothes.

The “Virtual Field Trip to an Ohio Pig Farm” initiative allows students to experience life on a pig farm through a live video chat with a farmer and learn some of the nuances surrounding swine farming.

The Ohio Pork Council (OPC) and Farm Credit Mid-America began the program in 2015 and say the virtual tours are an efficient way to accommodate a large group of people.

“With the best interest of people and pigs in mind, it’s difficult to allow many visitors to physically enter barns on a pig farm,” Jennifer Osterholt, OPC director of marketing and education said in an interview with

Using Google Hangouts, Osterhold assists from her Columbus office and can accommodate up to 10 classrooms. If there’s more than that, classrooms can follow along on YouTube and send in questions.

During the visit, farmers give tours of the barns and show how the animals are cared for; Osterholt said the students have witnessed the birth of piglets live on occasion.

Neil Rhonemus is among the Ohio farmers who opened their doors to the virtual tours. He said it’s important to allow people to see how farms operate.

“I think it’s important for farmers like me — untrained in public relations, and not hired professionals — to share what we do when asked — just plain people working and owning farms and helping to feed others, caring for the land, animals and each other,” Rhonemus said. "The virtual field trips give us the ability to be interactive in ways we haven’t before.”

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