Environmental sustainability in the real world

Originally published by Real Pig Farming | August 16, 2017

National Pork Board President Terry O’Neel Photo courtesy of Real Pig Farming

At its core, environmental sustainability means being a good neighbor. Treating the land you work on like the land you live on (though for many of use farmers it’s one in the same, anyway). Caring for the land in the same way we care for our pigs.

Today’s pig farmers must go through a stringent process of siting their farms, and through a permitting process that follows rules to safeguard our environment.

We don’t just plop a barn down wherever we want.

It may take more than a year from the time you choose a location until the approval process is complete. But when we’re talking about our communities and planet, it’s worth the wait.

As we build new barns, we must consider the following criteria:

· Where is this barn in relation to the location of neighbors and potential neighbors?

· What are the prevailing wind patterns?

· How far is the building located from other buildings and houses?

· Is the barn in a well-drained area?

Another thing we strive for here is appearance. It seems like if a place looks nice, folks aren’t as worried it will smell. Part of that is planting a lot of trees, which not only look nice, but improve air quality. We sited our farm buildings several years ago, so by now we have a wonderful shelter around it along with well-trimmed grass and rock driveways.

That appearance shows our neighbors how much we care about everything on the farm — both the little things like frequently mowing our lawn, and big things like proper manure handling. It’s not just about outward appearances, though. Our barns look good on the inside, too. We’re committed to keeping our facilities in good repair.

When consumers visit our farm, they’re often surprised by many aspects: The cleanliness, the low odor, the obvious comfort of the pigs.

But the biggest surprise is our high-tech biofilter. Fans take the exhaust air through a bed of wood chips, scrubbing and reducing the odor as it goes. Air quality is not only improved for the pigs, but for those who care for them, too.

We are also committed to recycling. First, with our manure that goes on to fertilize our 700 no-till acres of row crops. (Side note: No-till farming is good for soil health and water conservation, controls wind and water erosion, and improves water quality in our lakes and rivers.) But also, with pallets. We reuse pallets to make the wood chips for our biofilter and for other purposes around the farm. We also recycle steel, aluminum and motor oil on the farm.

It may take a little extra effort, but it’s a small price to pay. We love this land, and are committed to doing our part to keep it healthy.