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A decade of tree planting

Bruce and Jenny Wessling, on the right, walk along a tree line with their daughter, Jolee, and her fiance, Austin Saddoris, on their Greene County farm near Grand Junction.
Bruce and Jenny Wessling, on the right, walk along a tree line with their daughter, Jolee, and her fiance, Austin Saddoris, on their Greene County farm near Grand Junction. The Wesslings, who raise hogs, were the first participants in the Green Farmstead Partner program. A partnership of the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers, Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association, the program assists farmers' efforts to plant trees around livestock barns. PHOTO / GARY FANDEL

The Green Farmstead Partner program re­­turned to its roots June 19. The program hosted a tour of its first tree planting project, established in 2009, at the Bruce and Jenny Wessling hog facility in Greene County.

The celebration not only recognized the positive effects of the trees planted a decade ago, but also honored the next generation of both trees and farmers.

Bruce and Jenny’s oldest daughter, Jolee, and her fiance, Austin Saddoris, built their own hog building a couple years ago at another site owned by the family. It represents an opportunity for the young couple to put down their own roots in the ag industry, carry on a legacy of high-quality animal production and care for the land they work on.

“This building gave us the opportunity to come back and farm with my parents,” Jolee said, standing near a new row of trees planted in April 2019.

“I think it’s eye-opening to see newly planted trees and then see a site that’s 10 years old,” said Bruce Wessling, a Greene County Farm Bureau member. “For us, who see them every day, it seems like they grow slow. But then when you compare the two sites, there’s a huge difference there.”

More than aesthetics

The purpose of tree planting around livestock facilities is multifaceted. For starters, it just looks better to have trees around the long, low hog barns that dot the Midwest landscape.

But “trees are more than aesthetics,” Trees Forever program manager Brad Riphagen said. Trees provide many benefits, including energy savings by blocking harsh winter winds, as well as improvements to air quality, he said.

The Green Farmstead Partner (GFP) program is a partnership between the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF), Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association.

The initiative provides guidance to farmers who want to plant trees and shrubs. All livestock farmers are eligible for the program, no matter the type or size of operation. The GFP program offers assistance whether the producer is building a new site, has been in the business for years or simply wants to update their existing grove.

In addition to advice, the program can also offer would-be tree planters access to state incentives to plant at their facility, reducing upfront costs.

At the Wessling’s first site, CSIF and its partners planted Austree willow, red cedar and Norwegian spruce trees along with highbush cranberry and dogwood shrubs.

“We’ve seen benefits from the trees ourselves, but it also shows you care about your site, shows you care about the environment and what you’re doing,” Jenny said.

With this in mind, it was a pretty easy decision to add trees on the north side of the new building, Bruce said.

“The trees make it look nicer, and it also helps with the snow load on the building,” he said. “It really helped this winter. We didn’t get near the snow load from the winds as we did at the site that doesn’t have trees.”

For more information on the GFP program, visit supportfarmers.com.



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