Allison Brown was just 6 or 7 years old when she started helping her parents on the farm. She helped drive the tractor when it was time to harvest hay. She also helped her dad and grandpa load hogs when it was time to send them to market. Now, Brown has hogs and a hog barn of her own.

"In the back of my mind, I always wanted to come back and farm," Brown, 28, said. She hosted an open house last week at the barn to show neighbors and others the barn and her plan to grow pigs from weaning weight (10 to 15 pounds) to market weight.

Brown, who serves on the board for the Wayne County Farm Bureau, said her first step was calling the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF).

"The first thing I did was call the coalition and gave them my plans and thoughts about where I wanted the building," she said. "They told me yes if the location would work or no if it wouldn’t work."

Brown also talked to Farm Credit about financing the project and Eichelberger Farms Inc. about sourcing the pigs before starting the building process.

"I tried to get as much information as I could before I got things going," she said.

CSIF staff gave her information about how to communicate her plans to her neighbors and provided guidance during the 18 months it took to get the plan from a dream to the reality of a 2,480-space hog barn in Russell in Wayne County.

"I probably wouldn’t have been able to do this if it weren’t for the coalition," she said.

CSIF staff helped her interpret the rules and regulations regarding construction and permitting set forth by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Interpretation and back-and-forth discussions with both the NRCS and the Iowa DNR lasted about eight months, she said. She waited until spring to start the building process.

Doing it right

Brown said trees and shrubs will be added to the building’s site next spring. She worked with CSIF’s Green Farmstead Partner (GFP) program and Ted Lyon of Country Landscapes to develop a landscape design for the farm.

"Spending this kind of money and making this kind of investment, you just want things to look nice," Brown said. "You want something to be proud of."

With degrees in ag business from Kirkwood Community Coll­ege and Northwest Missouri State University, and years of experience, Brown said she’s ready to carry on the family’s farming tradition — now in its eighth generation.

"It’s really important to carry on the tradition," Brown said.

And her dad, Mark, is proud.

"I tell people that my daughter farms with me, and they kind of give me a funny look because it’s kind of unusual," Mark said.

But she plants and harvests her own corn, buys replacements heifers, breeds them and sells them as bred heifers, and now she’s taking on her own hog enterprise.

"She’s very self-confident that she can do most anything," Mark said. "She’s a hard worker, and I’m very pleased with where she’s at. I’m very proud of her."