Story by Sabra Jackson, Contributing writer
Coming in April to a [Winslow] Dining Hall near you will be locally grown pork courtesy of the Murray State North Farm.
Students of the fall AGR 426 class suggested a design for a new farrowing facility located on the North Farm to expand the current operation. The members of the group who created this proposition include Heath Durbin and Seth Carter, both seniors in Agribusiness, and Sydney Linville, a recent Murray State graduate.
Coy Murphy, senior from Owensboro, Kentucky, participated with the construction of the farrowing unit project.He said he hopes this will help show that agriculture is the center of everything.
“I want to see this program take off,” Murphy said. “I want to be able to educate people that the meat products that they are eating from the cafeterias came from the hog farm here at Murray State.”
Murphy said that he wants community members to keep an open mind and be able to see this side of agriculture and know that all meat comes from a farm.
Matt Shultz, professor in the Hutson School of Agriculture and instructor of AGR 426, said the class is designed to focus on swine experience and swine production, which is operational based, so the class proposes strategic initiatives which are designed to emulate a real-life farm.
These proposals range from changing the direction of the existing farm, analyzing manure handling, financial situations, reproductive approaches, training demonstrations for employees and students, grain storage, finishing capacity and others. The goal of these projects is to determine the most important needs and follow through with them.
“Even though we are a university, we operate just like a real farm,” Shultz said. “Our mentality there is if it does not make dollars, it does not make sense.”
The pigs will be taken to Hampton Meats in Hopkinsville, Kentucky to be slaughtered and processed.
Some of the animals will continue to be sold as project pigs for youth around the community involved in FFA and 4-H as well as being used as show pigs representing Murray State University, which they have been used for in the past.
“I would really like people to know that what we are really doing here is taking learning and putting it into experience and we are doing so in an immersive environment,” Shultz said. “We have created an environment for students to practice what they learn in class.”
The students that put together the project designed to produce pork for the dining hall assembled an analysis looking at many things including feed costs, increases in labor and increases in infrastructure. Students then looked at the analysis to determine if the project would pay for itself and if it was worth doing.
Students in the group and Dining Services worked together to make this project work with little disturbances.
“I can tell you I have been really impressed with the students that are working on this program when they have come to the meetings, they’ve really been prepared, they’ve really gotten their information, they were very professional about it,” said Paula Amols, director of Dining Services. “I think it has been a great exercise for them.”
Tim Bruce, executive chef manager, said the pigs will be used for a variety of things in Winslow.
“We use ground pork for things, the ribs and the bellies we will be able to use definitely,” Bruce said. “The hams will be difficult so I am hoping they [Shultz, the students and the processing plant] find a spot for hams, that would make the cost much better for everybody.”
As far as a change in the menu goes, there will only be a slight difference.
“It will take a little creativity on the part of Tim and is culinary team and they might very well make some adjustments to the menu mix so that they can make good use of what is worth using,” Amols said.
She said she believes that this will be beneficial for all because it will be supporting the learning experience within the university.
“This is another way we are investing back into the university,” Amols said.
Along with being used in dining services, the pork produced will also be served at events hosted in the William “Bill” Cherry Agricultural Exposition Center.