Located 5,500 feet above sea level in the desert, Blue Mountain Farm incorporates many innovative solutions for sustainable pork production in southern Utah.
Blue Mountain site 42304, which is part of Circle Four Farms based in nearby Milford, has been honored as a 2013 Environmental Steward. The farm, which produces 55,000 hogs annually in 10 feeder-to-finish barns, is a source of pride for this Murphy-Brown subsidiary and offshoot of Smithfield Foods.
“It’s important for us to be good stewards of the land and to minimize our environmental footprint because this is the community we live in, and this is the environment our pigs are raised in,” said Jim Webb, environmental, safety and public affairs manager for Circle Four. “We want to protect that in a sustainable manner for future generations.”
Conserving Water in a Desert
Since Utah operates on a water rights system, with a certain amount of water available in each aquifer, water conservation is a high priority.
Circle Four has purchased enough water rights for its entire operation, or about the same amount it would take to irrigate 600 acres of alfalfa, Webb said. “With our arid climate and high desert valley, water conservation and water usage are extremely important to us.”
The farm protects water quality with three groundwater monitoring wells that provide early warning in the event of any leaks from the lagoons, which are lined with high-density polyethylene liners that exceed state regulatory guidelines.
“Our lagoons are monitored daily by the farm manager and monthly by environmental technicians to ensure that the integrity of the liner is maintained,” said Webb.
Converting Manure to Energy
Blue Mountain Farm supplies manure from several anaerobic digesters to Alpental Energy Partners, a Utah-based developer of alternative-energy projects.
The energy-generation process begins when manure from shallow pits under the barns is flushed into anaerobic digesters. Inside the digesters, the manure interacts with bacteria to produce methane gas, which is fed into two Caterpillar engines at the nearby Alpental site. This allows the engines to create electricity that is sold to a local municipality.
“There’s enough power produced for 3,000 homes, or 3.2 megawatts,” Webb said. “Using the clean-burning methane to power generators reduces our carbon dioxide emissions by at least 107,000 metric tons per year. This really reduces our carbon footprint.”
Blue Mountain Farm’s eco-friendly management practices have helped it gain the gold standard in today’s world of environmental management, referred to as 14001 ISO certification.
Along with producing environmentally sustainable pork, Circle Four and Blue Mountain Farm help sustain the economic life of Milford and Beaver County. More than 460 Utah residents are directly employed by the farming operation.
Blue Mountain Farms also contributes to local charities that benefit schools, provide educational opportunities and support local FFA and 4-H programs. In addition, Blue Mountain Farm holds an annual four-week “Super Sustainability Season” program to focus on We CareSM principles.
“During the week that focuses on the environment, employees clean roadsides, plant trees and participate in a variety of cleanup and water monitoring projects in our community,” said Patty Goff, sustainability, communications and community relations manager at Circle Four.
Other weeks focus on animal care, community outreach, food safety and health, Goff added. “We want to demonstrate that we truly care and want to help future generations build a heritage here.”
Stewards Combine Ingenuity, Integrity
Blue Mountain Farms joins other pork operations across the country in their commitment to protecting natural resources while minimizing the environmental footprint. The 2013 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards selected by the Pork Checkoff’s Environmental Stewards subcommittee include:
• Russell Brothers LLC, Monticello, Iowa
• Bacon Hill Farm, Dodge, Neb.
• Krikke Pork, Greenwich, Ohio
“The forward-thinking 2013 Stewards focus on innovative solutions and ideas on their farms,” said Lynn Harrison, chair of the Environmental Stewards selection subcommittee and former president of the National Pork Board. “They are doing all this while adhering to the industry’s We CareSM ethical principles.”
Now in its 19th year, the Environmental Stewards award recognizes producers who demonstrate a firm commitment to safeguarding the environment and their local communities. The winners were chosen earlier this year based on their manure management systems, water and soil conservation practices, odor-control strategies, farm aesthetics, neighbor relations, wildlife habitat promotion and innovative ideas used to protect the environment. The judges represented pork producers and environmental organizations.
To take a video tour of the 2013 Environmental Stewards’ farms, visit http://video.pork.org/.