Monday, Sep 21, 2009 – The Pork Checkoff, along with its cosponsor, National Hog Farmer magazine, has selected four pork production operations to receive the industry’s highest environmental honor, which is the 2009 Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award. The award, now in its 15th year, honors producers who demonstrate a firm commitment to safeguarding the environment and their local communities.
This year’s award recipients are:
- JAC Pork of Hartley, Iowa
- Schafer Farms of Goodhue, Minn.
- Bryant Worley Farms of Princeton, N.C.
- Sensenig Farm of Mohnton, Pa.
The Environmental Steward award winners were selected by judges represented by pork producers and environmental organizations. The judges reviewed applications from pork producers who are committed to upholding the ideal relationship between pork production and the environment. Their operations were evaluated on their manure management systems; water and soil conservation practices; odor-control strategies; farm aesthetics and neighbor relations; wildlife habitat promotion; innovative ideas used to protect the environment and an essay on the meaning of environmental stewardship.
“We’re always excited to see another group of pork producers who are nominated for this prestigious award each year,” said Randy Brown, chair of the Environmental Stewards selection subcommittee and member of the National Pork Board. As a producer and past Environmental Steward award recipient, he added, “Pork producers are natural protectors of the environment because they realize that taking good care of the environmental and natural resources is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also smart business. This year’s award recipients exemplify this principle and take it to the next level.”
The award recipients will receive the recognition of their peers at the 2010 National Pork Industry Forum to be held next March in Kansas City, Mo.
Note to media: The following is a short description of the 2009 Environmental Stewards’ operations.
On their fifth-generation farm in northwest Iowa, Roger and Renee Nath raise 3,520 finisher pigs per year. They also farm 700 acres of corn and soybeans in a no-till rotation system.
JAC Pork follows a comprehensive nutrient management plan. They pump manure stored in an earthen basin to a drag-hose system. Using a chisel plow, they inject manure below the soil surface in the appropriate field, maximizing nutrient savings and mitigating odors. Further, they use a straw-based biocover on their earthen basin to prevent odor issues.
The farm uses a six-bay composting system to recycle mortalities. Recycled wood chips and savings serve as a carbon source to augment the 60-day process. Also, the Naths take careful steps to reduce potential soil erosion and maintain water quality. The farm, which adjoins the Ocheyeden River, has filter strips and land in the Conservation Reserve Program to provide protection from erosion and offer wildlife habitat.
The Naths add additional credibility to their environmental stewardship by planting trees at every family milestone and by maintaining beautiful grounds for friends and neighbors to enjoy.
For six generations, the Schafer family of Goodhue, Minn., has extolled the virtues of good environmental stewardship by their careful management practices designed to protect the soil and water. Today, Brandon Shafer operates the swine enterprise for the farm, farrowing about 1,600 sows and finishing approximately 38,000 pigs per year. Meanwhile, his brother Brian manages the cow-calf herd and the crops.
On this southeastern Minnesota farm, rolling hills and Karst geography produce unique challenges, but none they haven’t overcome. Working closely with their Soil and Water Conservation District, the Schafers keep much of their land in pasture for their cattle herd. They also use terraces and maintain retention ponds to minimize erosion. Manure from the swine operation is applied according to the crop needs of their corn and pasture acreage. They typically inject it using a drag-line system, which also reduces soil compaction concerns.
To conserve water, the Schafers take many small steps, such as using swinging waterers and presoaking rooms prior to hot-water cleaning. This has lead to a 20 percent savings in usage. From an air-quality standpoint, the family continually plants trees and shrubs around exhaust fans and other key areas.
To foster good community relations, the Schafers host nearly 200 people annually at the farm’s “pignic.” This longstanding event typifies the respect this family has for not only the environment, but for the people and animals around them.
Bryant Worley Farms
Bryant and Debbie Worley have continued the family tradition of exceptional stewardship of the land on their farm in eastern North Carolina. Now with their two sons’ families as part of the operation as well, Worley Farms is continuing to uphold the responsible farming techniques started by generations of family before as they finish 14,000 hogs per year along with turkeys, cattle, hay and row crops.
Using a nutrient management plan for manure and crops is nothing new to this farm. This practice has been in place by the Worleys since 1950, with continuous updates as needed. This provides the overall strategy of how best to use of their swine manure and turkey litter, while a GPS system provides ultra precision on where to best incorporate it for optimum soil and crop needs. Also, the Worleys work with their state’s department of agriculture to get regular manure analysis, which they share with their crop consultant to obtain the best possible information on the manure’s nutrient profile.
Aside from being active on their local soil and water conservation district, the Worleys take practical steps on the farm to prevent soil or water problems. They use no-till for crops and participate in the Conservation Reserve Program in addition to using multiple grass waterways and field borders. Irrigation equipment is carefully monitored and updated as needed. Native grassways and an 8-acre dedicated plot also provide wildlife habitat.
The Worleys have always practiced what they preach on environmental stewardship and have been recognized as North Carolina’s “Conservation Farm Family of the Year.” This designation aptly describes this family’s long-standing dedication to the land.
Since its beginnings in 1977 to today, Sensenig Farms, based in Lancaster County, Pa., has been a champion of the environment by practicing sustainability. Lowell and Janet Sensenig, who finish 1,200 hogs per year on their farm, grow corn, soybeans, hay and vegetables.
By using ongoing soil tests and field histories, the Sensenigs know exactly how much nitrogen and phosphorous their crops require to achieve optimum yields. This allows them to precisely apply manure from their deep pits, which has improved soil pH and yields. Feeding supplemental phytase to their hogs also aids their ability to use more manure per acre as it prevents overly high levels of phosphorous.
Beyond nutrient management, the Sensenigs have completely renovated their farm from an environmental standpoint since they began working on it more than 30 years ago. On their rolling farmland, they’ve installed retention basins, grass buffer strips and a diversion ditch to mitigate any potential runoff and soil erosion. Crop stover or a cover crop of rye is used for fallow fields.
Maintaining good neighbor relations is paramount for the densely populated area in which the Sensenigs farm. To achieve this, they located the hog barn to allow the prevailing wind to take any odors or dust across their cropland. Also, they maintain nearly 3,000 square feet of landscaped flower beds around their buildings.