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Pig Pen Park
Erin Brenneman grew up in Chicago cheering for the Cubs. After falling in love with a pig farmer while attending Iowa State University, Brenneman traded her city roots for chore boots and joined husband Tim’s family farm in southeast Iowa. A lot changed when Brenneman moved to the rural Midwest, but her love for baseball never faded.
Now, the couple has two young sons who share their mom’s passion for the game. Each season, the Brennemans were finding it increasingly difficult to find available fields.
“Whether it be for practice or a game, I think so many people are in a pinch. Practices get cancelled or are at odd times that you can’t make because you just couldn’t find a ball field,” explains Brenneman.
One day, she had an idea. “I was joking around with Tim and said, ‘Let’s just build one in our backyard.’ He laughed at me. We already had a pretty big section of yard out by my horses,” Brenneman recalls.
She was serious. Brenneman painted lines on the grass, put down home plate, and measured out bases. The boys had fun on the makeshift field.
The more they watched the kids play, the more Brenneman and her husband were convinced. “We looked into it and were like, let’s do this!”
Before long, the family was hard at work mowing and moving dirt. Brenneman could see her passions coming together right in her own backyard. “I got excited to have the community come out to our farm and to give back to the community through the field,” she says.
field on the farm
Brenneman continues, “We want them to be able to come out, use the field and have a good time, feel the feels, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ball game, but also be right there on our farm and share that. Obviously, our home is right there. Our feed mill is right there. You’re surrounded by corn. You’re surrounded by pigs. That’s our business, but we also live right there. It was important to me for other people to see that we’re the first ones to drink the water, we’re the first ones to eat the food, and we’re proud of what we do.”
Although the field is on a gravel road between the small towns of Kalona and Washington, each game draws a crowd of at least 25,000 – pigs, that is. Barns of sows and nursery pigs are right next to the field. Brenneman’s horses, chickens, and dogs can be counted among the fans, too.
Teams from nearby cities, including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, have come to play on the field. “People come out and say, ‘This is beautiful. I’ve never been to this part of Iowa before.’ And they’re only 20 minutes away,” Brenneman laughs. “They’ve never driven out into the country with a purpose. It’s neat to hear people say that.”
fun for all
In addition to hosting local teams, family, and friends, last year the family held a tournament called Homeruns Fighting Hunger. Participating teams paid the entry fee with donations of canned goods to support the Food Bank of Iowa.
The Brennemans also had an all-American 4th of July celebration on the field last summer, complete with fireworks and a screening of the movie, The Sandlot.
Iowa governor Kim Reynolds even stopped by to play and speak at Pig Pen Park last year.
In the off-season, fans watch the park’s social media pages to keep up with the field improvements and decorations. Brenneman enjoys decking out the field for Christmas. One year, she outlined the baselines with rope lights. Then, inflatable yard figurines held their own game on the field through winter. Brenneman has even bigger plans for the 2019 holiday season.
“It’s been everything I imagined and more. It’s been a cathartic experience, really,” beams Brenneman. As the grass turns green and kids eagerly await the end of the school year, the family looks forward to more games this summer.