Environmental Stewardship is Hog Heaven
Illinois Pork Producer Finds Value in Cutting Odor
Being a good neighbor is important to Prophetstown, Illinois, pork producer Larry Verhulst. He’s a producer who exemplifies what it means to go the extra mile to make his property both aesthetically and environmentally pleasing. “With more and more people moving into rural areas, we have to be good neighbors,” said Verhulst. “That means making sure our operations are visibly pleasing and not creating problems with bad smells.”
Verhulst family members including Larry, Robert and Robb raise hogs and crops in a partnership that is part of an independent farrowing cooperative. LRV Farms markets about 14,000 hogs per year.
In efforts to improve their operation’s environmental stewardship and enhance the “neighborhood,” Verhulsts said, “We added a ring of 32 pine trees when we constructed our new finishing facility last year, and we took measures to cut down odor with a Slurrystore manure management system.” Although not required to do these things, Verhulsts said, “We did it because it’s a good business decision to help maintain the viability of the hog industry in Illinois.”
Larry, Robert and Robb Verhulst worked with Trees Forever and the Illinois Buffer Partnership to design their pine tree buffer. Trees Forever touts buffers as a way to contribute to cleaner water, enhance landscape, establish wildlife habitat and even provide farm income.
The Verhulsts planted the trees along the downwind side of the facility near the building exhaust fans. They obtained from a local tree farm 10- to 15-foot trees that were too big for the consumer Christmas market, and hade them moved to the farm and planted by a local landscaper. The result was instant odor and dust reduction.
“We have to wait for the trees to grow together to really cut down the odor and dust, but the trees are large enough there was an immediate and noticeable reduction,” Verhulst said. “The trees also look nice, and we have received a number of positive comments from people. We want to do everything we can to the facility to make it visually attractive.”
Another step Verhulsts took toward improved environmental stewardship was the installation of the Slurrystore manure management system. They had straw blown on to the surface of the pit to serve as a biomass cover. The result has been reduced odor from this source as well. The Verhulsts also plan to plant grass seed around the facility and add decorative trees and shrubs for further visual enhancement.
Harry Hendrickson, Trees Forever project manager, said, “The Verhulsts have gone far above and beyond what is required to be good neighbors and protect the environment. Their buffer and manure storage facility are visual reminders of their investment in environmental protection.”
Verhulst encourages other hog producers to take similar steps. “We have to make sure our industry maintains a positive image.” And according to Verhulst, when it involves environmental and aesthetic enhancements it’s a plus.