The Waddington family of rural Assumption, Ill., Gabrielle, Reece, Riley and R.D. (from left) stop for a photo at one of the FarmWeld feeders in their new 2,400-head finishing building. The Waddingtons celebrated the completion of construction of the new building with an open house sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers Association. They are partnering with Roger Walk and Walk Stock Farms from Neoga, Ill., on the new venture.
The Waddington family of rural Assumption, Ill., Gabrielle, Reece, Riley and R.D. (from left) stop for a photo at one of the FarmWeld feeders in their new 2,400-head finishing building. The Waddingtons celebrated the completion of construction of the new building with an open house sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers Association. They are partnering with Roger Walk and Walk Stock Farms from Neoga, Ill., on the new venture.
ASSUMPTION, Ill. — For the Waddington and Walk families, pork production comes as naturally as FFA.

“I had hogs as an FFA project in high school. That’s the first I can remember having them on my own,” said R.D. Waddington.

Waddington was speaking inside the newly-finished 2,400-hog finishing barn that is the newest addition to his family’s farm.

The barn, built by Niebrugge Ag Service of Dieterich, was opened up to the public with an open house sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

FFA was a common theme found in the two families involved in the new venture.

“We’ve always had sows since the 1960s, so we’ve been in the hog business since then. Our hog business started out with a purebred Duroc herd back in the 1960s as an FFA and 4-H project of my older brothers,” said Roger Walk of Walk Stock Farms in Neoga.

The Waddingtons contracted with Walk Stock Farms to finish hogs in the 2,400-head finishing barn. The Waddingtons will supply the building and labor, and Walk Stock Farms supplies the pigs and everything that goes into them.

The Waddingtons began talks with Roger Walk in February of 2012 after they decided to add to their farm operation in anticipation of their youngest child, son Reece, a freshman at Central A&M High School, someday returning to the farm.

“We were trying to think of something else to add value to our farm and to bring our son back to the farm one of these days,” said R.D. Waddington, who had raised hogs and left the pork production business in the mid-1980s. “I’ve always had a fondness for raising hogs, and it kind of drew us back.”

The Waddingtons also raise corn, soybeans, wheat, white corn and seed corn.

R.D. Waddington is the third generation on the family farm. Reece and his sisters, Gabrielle and Riley, are the fourth.

Gabrielle is a registered nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Riley, who also has expressed a desire to work on the family farm, is a licensed cosmetologist and plans to open her own business.

Roger Walk said the Waddingtons and their plans and values are a good fit with Walk Stock Farms.

“We were looking for quality growers to work with us. We really liked the fact that they’re looking at bringing the next generation into the farm because that tells me they believe in longevity and they want their farm to continue. We felt each other was a very good fit. They have a lot of the same values that we have, and they’re going to do a good job,” he said.

Reece Waddington, who just started in FFA and his freshman year, said he is looking forward to the new farm venture. Pigs are slated to arrive at the 101-by-193-foot two-room barn in late September.

“I’m pretty excited. I think it will be a fun learning adventure,” Waddington said.

When asked if the building was constructed with plans for Reece to run it some day, R.D. nodded.

“That’s our plan, yes,” he said as his son nodded agreement.

Members of the Central A&M High School FFA were on hand to serve up porkburgers and grilled pork chops, as well as bottles of water and soda.

As temperatures soared toward the 100-degree mark, the six 1.5 horsepower ventilation fans at the end of the building, along with two single-horsepower fans, moved air through the building and kept guests cool inside.

The building is tunnel ventilated, and air exchanges out of the building every minute to minute and a half. Ceiling-mounted infrared heaters will provide heat in the cooler months for the young pigs. Misters and soakers in the ceiling are controlled by computer, as are the heaters and the fans.

Walk said the late-summer heat wave outside was a good example of why indoor pork production is beneficial.

“Sometimes people question why we do the things we do on the farm, and this is a perfect example. Today, it’s 95 degrees and about 90 percent humidity, and it’s very comfortable inside these barns. The pigs are in here for the benefit of the pigs and for the benefit of the people taking care of them. I would much rather be in here today than in the sweltering heat,” he said.

The Waddingtons and the Walks kept their business local, with Niebrugge Ag Services of Dieterich building the new barn and the wet/dry feeders and waterers coming from FarmWeld in Teutopolis.

The new barn also relies on local and regional feed supplies. The Walks grind and mix the feed that goes to their contract production partners.

“We feed locally-grown corn and locally-grown soybeans. Most of our bean meal comes out of Decatur and our distillers comes out of Palestine and our corn comes out of the Neoga area,” Walk said.

The Lincolnland Agri-Energy LLC ethanol plant in Palestine supplies the dried distiller’s grain.

When the hogs get to market weight, Walk Stock Farms trucks will transport them to Cargill Meat Solutions in Beardstown or to Indiana Packers in Delphi, Ind.

The contracts between the two families were signed in July 2012 at the height of the 2012 drought as crops in central Illinois withered away. But Walk said that didn’t affect either family’s commitment.

“Just like the Waddingtons who have been farming in this area for a long time, we’re not in this for the short term. We’re in it for the long term. You don’t let one year’s crop determine what your long-term strategy is,” he said.

“We’ve raised hogs for a long time. We’ve see the ups and downs, we went through ‘98 and we’ve done all that. Our family is committed to the pork industry, and I think the Waddingtons are a great addition.”