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SDSU Finds Innovative Way to Reach Students and Public Audiences Amid COVID-19

Students at swine facility.
SDSU students Logan Tesch, Katelyn Zeamer (alumna), Morgan Busack and Molly Kroeger give virtual tours of the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility as part of Operation Main Street, a program supported by the National Pork Board.
Students giving tour in swine facility.
SDSU alumna Katelyn Zeamer(left) training SDSU students Molly Kroeger, Logan Tesch and Morgan Busack, to give virtual tours of the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility.

South Dakota State University’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences recently partnered with the South Dakota Pork Producers Council to bring a live virtual farm tour of the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility to the public through Facebook live.

With school closures across the nation due to COVID-19, this live tour offered an educational opportunity for students and families of all ages and demographics to see first-hand what goes on inside a pig barn. This, however, was not the first live tour of the barn.

Beginning in 2017, SDSU began working with Operation Main Street, the National Pork Board Speakers Bureau, to bring these virtual farm tours to audiences of all kinds across the country. Since then, more than 60 tours have been given in 24 states.

From the beginning, 10 SDSU CAFES undergraduate and graduate students have served as the virtual tour guides. Five students currently serve as active guides: Morgan Busack, an agricultural leadership major from Echo, Minnesota; Alison Eibs, an agricultural communications major from Henderson, Minnesota; Molly Kroeger, a biotechnology and microbiology double major from Lennox, South Dakota; Analicia Swanson, a swine nutrition master’s student from Blue Earth, Minnesota; and Logan Tesch, an animal science and agricultural business double major from Henderson, Minnesota.

The live Facebook tour was led by Tesch, who also is the current Minnesota Pork Ambassador, and walked through a farrowing room within the barn. Tesch talked through animal care, technology used in the barn, what makes SDSU’s barn similar and different than other pig barns and the importance of sustainability. From there, the Facebook audience asked many questions regarding pig farming that were answered live on the spot.

“Being a tour guide for Operation Main Street has allowed me to grow as a public speaker and reach outside my comfort zone,” said Tesch. “This Facebook live tour was a first for us, and I felt like it was a huge success because of all the people that worked hard on it.”

In addition to Tesch, Stacey Sorlien, program and communications director at SDPPC, and Craig Andersen, SDPPC president, were also part of the tour. They offered both a welcome to start the presentation off and a wrap up to close. Maddie Hokanson, SDSU CAFES alumni and past virtual tour guide, served as the moderator.

“The SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility has been such a positive asset to the pork industry in South Dakota and across the nation,” said Sorlien. “Being able to utilize it at an even greater level with this Facebook live tour was something we were glad to do and we were happy to have such great support in from SDSU faculty and the Operation Main Street team.”

For additional information about the tour or to schedule a virtual farm tour for your own classroom or organization, contact Sorlien at ssorlien@sdppc.org. She will also be able to provide classroom and learning resources for distance learning during this time.

To view the video, visit the South Dakota Pork Producers Council Facebook page or view the video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/glC-rAV2b7M .

About the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility

The Swine Education and Research Facility at SDSU has a herd of 150 sows, marketing around 4,800 pigs annually. This facility is a working production farm along with being utilized for education and research. It offers a 50-seat modern classroom with technology for education and elevated hallways with viewing windows to allow guests to visit the barn without having to “shower in” for biosecurity purposes. Additionally, this farm has a surgical suite, boar collection room and physiology room, all utilized for both education and research. Learn more about the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility.