Smelling with your eyes: Build goodwill and save money on your livestock farm by planting trees | The Spokesman Speaks Podcast, Episode 16
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Welcome to Episode 16 of The Spokesman Speaks podcast. In this episode, we learn about the Green Farmstead Partner Program, which has been helping many Iowa livestock farmers reduce their snow removal and energy costs, while improving the appearance and smell of their farms, over the past decade.
For more information on how trees help mitigate odor on livestock farms, check out this study by researchers at Iowa State University and USDA and this report by a University of Delaware professor.
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Narrator: Welcome to The Spokesman Speaks, a podcast from Iowa's leading agricultural news source. Brought to you by the Iowa Farm Bureau. Now, here's your host, Laurie Johns.
Laurie Johns: Welcome to The Spokesman Speaks Podcast. This is our July 1st edition. Thanks for joining us. We're fresh off of Iowa Farm Bureau's Economic Summit, which was June 28th in downtown Des Moines and there is so much to share. Luckily for you, we tracked down a handful of the summit speakers to share some of their insights with you, our podcast audience. So if you're interested in hearing some unique revenue and risk management opportunities from a wide range of national experts, be sure to subscribe to this podcast and watch for those interviews in future episodes. There's just so much great information, we can't put it all in one podcast. But today's podcast episode features a program that's been quietly helping many Iowa livestock farmers reduce their snow removal and energy costs while also improving the appearance and the smell of their sites. And they've been at it for over a decade now. It's the Green Farmstead Partner program, which is a partnership between the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers, Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association. Last month the program celebrated its 10th anniversary with a field day on the Greene County farm that helped launch the program. Iowa Farm Bureau's Zach Bader tagged along to learn about the unique benefits the program offers livestock farmers. Trees to win, let's listen in.
Zach Bader: Here with Brian Waddingham with the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. Brian, tell us a little bit about the Green Farmstead Partner programs created 10 years ago. What's it all about and why was it created by the Coalition?
Brian Waddingham: Yeah, so the Green Farmstead Partner program started in 2009. It's a collaborative effort between the Coalition, Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery Landscape Association. But we felt that there was a real need that farmers had and were willing to plant trees and shrubs and windbreaks around new livestock barns and feedlots as a way to enhance neighbor relations. And you know, over the course of the last 10 years, we've really come to believe that a lot of people still smell with their eyes. So if you can plant windbreaks around these barns and people can't see them as easily, they tend not to smell as bad. So that's why the program was started. Since '09 then we've now planted a little over 70,000 trees on more than 200 livestock farmers.
Zach Bader: What are some of the benefits of involving professionals here? So, I mean, if I'm listening to this as a farmer, maybe I think to myself, you know, okay, I get the concept of I could plant trees around my barn here. Is that something I can just do myself or why should I think about reaching out to experts and the benefits that that provides?
Brian Waddingham: Well we encourage livestock farmers to participate in the Green Farmstead Partner program because we do have 26 nursery professionals that are trained to go out and work with livestock farmers to get those trees planted in the right location around livestock barns and feedlots. One of the biggest mistakes that we see are farmers planting trees too close to the buildings and that disrupts your airflow to now where instead of having snow deposited away from the barn, snow is deposited on top of the pit fans, tunnel fans or worst case scenario on top of the roof where it would cause a collapse. So we're firm believers in working with professionals to have it done right. You got your separation distances from the building to the trees. There's also tile lines that are underground around pitted barns and you have to take in root development when you're siting those trees around those barns as well. So just hiring a professional to do it makes a lot of sense.
Zach Bader: And what kind of benefits do you see farmers seeing as a result of tapping into this program?
Brian Waddingham: Some of the biggest benefits we see from trees is, again, you improve the aesthetics of your site. That goes a long way to enhance neighbor relations. We're also seeing a lot of farmers like the Wesslings, plant trees for snow control deposition. Which means he can plant those trees in an area where he knows the snow's gonna dump in a spot where he's not going to have to spend time and money moving that snow or to where it's going to impact the ventilation on that barn. And then finally, in energy savings. We know in the winter you plant trees on the north and west sides of those buildings, you're gonna use less LP than you normally would if there weren't trees there.
Zach Bader: Is there a cost to participating in this program and how do folks get started if they're interested?
Brian Waddingham: Yeah. Well, the best way if you want to find out more about the program is you can visit us online SupportFarmers.com or give us a call at 800-932-2436. But again, to get involved in the program, contact us. We'll put you in touch with the nursery professional that we think will do the best job for you based on what your needs are. They'll meet with you. We'll pay for that initial plan for them to draw you up a blueprint design. And then it's up to you to decide how you want to plant the trees. If you want the nursery professional to do it, if you want to do it yourself. But the important thing here is the trees are all marked out as to where they need to be located for maximum benefit to the barn.
Zach Bader: You know, this is a program that's been 10 years in the building and obviously you've, you know, built it to an impressive level where we see, you know, I think you said 70,000 trees that you planted around the state here. What kind of parting advice or suggestion would you have for livestock farmers who are listening to this podcast, thinking about this option? Any parting thoughts for them?
Brian Waddingham: Yeah, you know, if you've wanted to plant trees or maybe you've got an established grove that's got some disease problems and you need to get it refurbished. Again, that's what this program is for. As long as you have livestock on the farm, we'll work with you to plant trees on your farm. So again, if you've been thinking about doing something for a while but you just weren't sure where to start, give the Coalition a call we'd be glad to work with you and get you started and off on the right foot.
Laurie Johns: You heard Brian refer to the benefits of involving experts in your tree plantings, even if it's just mapping out where those trees should go for the best results. That's the reason the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers involves experts like Trees Forever in this program. Zach caught up with Brad Riphagen of Trees Forever during the field day to talk more about the benefits livestock farmers can expect from planting trees. As well as ways to avoid unintended consequences and ways to help offset the cost of planting trees. Let's listen in.
Zach Bader: Here with Brad Riphagen from Trees Forever. Brad, you've been involved in this Green Farmstead Partner program from the start 10 years ago. Why is Trees Forever involved in this program?
Brad Riphagen: That's a good question. And I think as we see it now, even looking back on it, it's beneficial to both organizations. We for many years have been working with land owners trying to add trees and windbreaks to their sites and buffers along their streams. And the Green Farmstead program came along and is promoting a lot of the same things. And so it's just a great coalition or a great partnership for us to get the word out there more to get more things done with more landowners. And so, it's how could you not?
Zach Bader: So, livestock farmers are experts at raising livestock, but maybe not necessarily picking the right trees that would suit their operations or spacing those out in the ways that they can achieve the maximum benefit. So why would a farmer, if a farmers considering planting trees on their farm, first of all, what are the reasons they should do that? And then what's the reason they should get in contact with the Green Farmstead Partner program?
Brad Riphagen: Well, so from our standpoint, I have a hard time finding a reason not to plant a tree, but in terms of a livestock operation in this situation, there are many reasons to plant this type of planting and windbreak in this situation. There, first off, the benefits of a windbreak are standard throughout in terms of if you're planting around your home or any other facility, if you're going to slow down the wind, especially those winter winds around a facility, it just allows for you, not to have to spend so much for those energy costs. So you have a long lived functional windbreak out there that is reducing your energy costs as it gets larger. And as we heard the landowner speak earlier, that's possibly happening here right now. You also see for a facility like this and any other facility even for that matter is you can direct where the snow ends up and by planting them strategically they have set this up that they no longer get snow dumped on their vent fans coming out of the building as opposed to all those new buildings where they're digging snow out during the winter time. And this past year was a good example of that. So we have lots of benefits that come from this. There are things that maybe the landowner thought of or didn't think of when we put it in and they may have wanted to see these things, but we're seeing impacts, positive impacts to the wildlife in the area. We're seeing a lot of bird nesting happening. We're seeing good water quality impacts too because trees we know absorb a lot of water and pump it back into the atmosphere. As well as the shrub rows that we include a lot of times when these windbreaks that provide a variety of food sources for caterpillars, for insect pollinators, all kinds of different things. So there are multiple benefits from a project like this and with a landowner, I know this isn't their primary objective when they're putting them in or when they, when they think about them as functioning for their hog building, but one of the things that we love to see in a project like this is the fact that the landowners maintained them so well. So that we are actually getting a very good growth from the planting as opposed to if we had a lot of competition from the grass around these different plantings, we could see the trees only being about half the size of what they would be right now. And so they've reduced that competition from the plantings around them. And so we’ve had a successful planting over the years.
Zach Bader: And so this was actually the first project that you worked on 10 years ago. And so what would you say, what are the best situations that you've found over the course of those 10 years? What are the best operations or opportunities or circumstances that work well for livestock farmers when they're thinking about this? What are those real good opportunities for them?
Brad Riphagen: Well, I guess I would say that's always an opportunity, but I would say if you have the ability to when you're actually laying out your facility, think about this along with your planning for where that facility is going to go, where you're planning, where's my truck gonna pull into, where's it going to turn around? All those kinds of things. If you can think about those kinds of things and also think about where can I locate this? Or how can I orient my facilities so I can best take advantage of the trees that I want to plant around it? Those are important things to ask at the beginning. Now, if you don't have that ability to do that, we can come back and help you retrofit things as well and work with you to find ways to incorporate this type of planting onto your site, typically. If you're, again, some of you may be constrained with, you may just have the right of way outside the building. So maybe we could plant just scattered trees around the site and that's gonna provide some benefit even though it doesn't seem like it in terms of the mass that we have here with the wind break. But in my opinion, any tree that you can get on the site, it's going to be a positive in many ways.
Zach Bader: And you had mentioned during the tour here that there are some cost share opportunities as well. What does that look like or where would people start if they're interested in something like that?
Brad Riphagen: For Trees Forever, I would direct you to our website. It's TreesForever.org. And we have a funding source available to landowners, that is a cost share funding source. And so, if you're interested, go to our website. You're certainly welcome to call any of the staff members that are involved with the projects as well. And so those names are also listed on the website. We do have an 800 number that's in our main office in Marion. And I can give you that. It's 800-269-1269. So you're welcome to check that out too. But the website will direct you to applications. So we provide an application and if you have issues with filling out an application, contact us, we will help you fill it out. Okay. That's our role. We want to make sure that you're successful getting your funds, you're successful having your planting, you're successful in having valuable trees when you're done. So that's what we like to see happen. There are also, in many counties, they have access to reap dollars through their district offices that can help you fund some of these things as well. So again, that's another place to go look and look for expertise and funding assistance.
Zach Bader: Any final thoughts that you'd like to leave with? Anything we haven't covered or any final thoughts that you'd like to leave livestock farmers with?
Brad Riphagen: Any final thoughts? Plant it. You need to get these things around your facilities. The benefits are immense and they're not just, I know there's benefits that you're going to directly get monetary benefits from, but there are so many other benefits to your neighbors, to yourself, to anybody else driving by. So, plant it, give us a call.
Laurie Johns: We know that farmers appreciate the opportunity to tap into experts to improve their operations, whether it's reducing odor or improving energy costs and protecting water quality. We know that you also appreciate hearing from your peers. Fellow farmers, just like you who, are implementing practices or programs on their farms. So Zach caught up with Bruce Wessling, who farms near Grand Junction. Bruce was the first farmer to participate in the Green Farmstead Partner program 10 years ago. What has Bruce learned since then? Let's hear what he has to say.
Zach Bader: Here with Bruce Wessling, whose got a beautiful farm here in Grand Junction, Iowa. Bruce, can you start off, just tell us a little bit about your farming operation?
Bruce Wessling: My wife Jenny and I started farming in 1990. I guess had been fourth generation. Came back to the farm, row crop and then started doing livestock in '97 was when we first built our first barn. Previously we were doing livestock but outside facilities at that point. And, and then in '97, built our first pig barn.
Zach Bader: So we're here for a tour, celebrating 10 years of the Green Farmstead Partner program through the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. You were actually the first participant in that program. 10 years ago, what inspired you to do that, to plant those trees and call the Coalition for help with that?
Bruce Wessling: Well, I was talking to the Coalition, we were building a new barn in 2009. And so I was in conversation with Coalition about siting of the barn and mentioned to them that I thought I wanted to put trees around the site and they mentioned the Green Farmstead Partnership program that they were starting and wanted to know if we'd be willing to kind of have an open house and kick that off. And so we were the first ones, I guess to plant trees, through that program in 2009.
Zach Bader: What kind of benefits have you seen from those trees? It was fun, the first site we went it was a new site that you had were newly planted trees. And then these on the current site here that we went to just recently had some established trees that obviously been there for 10 years. So what kind of benefits have you seen from that? Whether it's, you know, economic or even just neighbor relations and things like that? What kind of benefits do you see from planting trees?
Bruce Wessling: I think originally the reason I wanted to plant trees was the aesthetics, to try to make the site just look nicer. But then since then we've seen the benefits of snow load on the buildings around the fan cabinets. You know, a strong north wind with snow. We don't have near the snow pressure on those buildings that we did before planting the trees. And that kind of enticed us to go ahead and put trees at this other site then.
Zach Bader: And I know you've got your daughters coming back to the farm as well. And so a decision like this to plant trees and make other, you know, enhancements to the farm there, how do those decisions factor into not only your desire to see this farm do well and thrive under you, but for that next generation as well?
Bruce Wessling: Yeah, I guess my daughter and her fiancée built a barn at another site and they went ahead and that's the new site that we put the trees on. And, it's, I think just goes to show that, you know, we're taking, trying to take care of the, you know, the environment and the land to pass it on to our children. And I hope that they, you know, will continue to do the same.
Zach Bader: So, if you've got some farmers out there who are listening to this podcast, thinking about the concept of maybe planting trees around their livestock barns, where do you recommend they start, or any recommendations given from these 10 years of experience that you've got with it?
Bruce Wessling: Yeah, I'd started, you know, I guess with the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers is where we started with our first site now that the last site we contacted our local Trees Forever representative. And then he also got in touch with Coalition. So I think there are two great resources for them to use and help get the trees planted. And also NRCS office a lot of times has some good programs in the expertise you need to know where to plant and what species. Yeah, I'd just encourage you to go ahead and plant trees around your barn if you've been thinking about it. We've seen the benefits of it and you know, the sooner you get them planted, the sooner you get the benefit out of them.
Laurie Johns: Well, there you have it. What's nice about a program like that one is it can certainly be tailored to whatever's going on on your farm. So if you're a livestock farmer and you like some of what you've heard today but maybe have questions about others, we'd encourage you to reach out to the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. And of course the Coalition is a great resource for the Green Farmstead Partner program, but they're also a tremendous resource for all livestock related questions. So whether you're looking to site a new livestock barn or maybe just grow one you already have, I know Brian mentioned their phone number before, but we're going to give it to you again. It's 1-800-932-2436. We'll try that again. 800-932-2436. Well, as we wrap up this episode of The Spokesman Speaks Podcast, we want to bring your attention to an upcoming opportunity. Now, if you're a hog farmer, we know you are closely watching the news for headlines about African swine fever. On July 11th, Iowa Farm Bureau is going to host a live webinar on African swine fever with the Emergency Management Coordinator for Animal Health with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He's going to discuss the potential impact of this swine fever and what can happen to Iowa agriculture and how to identify it and ways to help prevent it. That's key - prevention. You'll also have an opportunity to ask questions, so if that's something that interests you, be sure to go out to IowaFarmBureau.com and get registered today for that African swine fever webinar. Very important. And be sure to join us for our next episode of The Spokesman Speaks Podcast on July 15th. That's when we're going to start bringing you some of those expert interviews from the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit. So remember to subscribe to the podcast and keep an eye open for our next episode. Until next time, thanks for reading The Spokesman. Thanks for all the great stories and inspiration, and thanks for listening to The Spokesman Speaks.
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Since 1934, The Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman has been Iowa’s leading agriculture news source, and today it is the largest circulation ag newspaper in Iowa. While the Spokesman newspaper is available exclusively to Iowa Farm Bureau members, The Spokesman Speaks podcast is available publicly, reaching farmers on-the-go with stories that matter to them. You can find episodes of the podcast here or subscribe and listen in your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneInRadio, or Radio.com.
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