Launching Project Green

posted on Friday, April 26, 2019

“Trees don’t help us grow bigger or better pigs but they are important,” said Noel Williams, Iowa Select Farms Chief Operating Officer. “They help us be good neighbors and responsible members of our communities and state.”

Iowa Select Farms is proud to do the right thing, and to do things right.

Since announcing our commitment to being a good neighbor and partnering with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers Green Farmstead Partner Program, we have planted 1,113 trees and 1,031 shrubs on 16 farms and installed 26 electrostatic fences on 14 farms across Iowa. Additionally, we partnered with Iowa State University to study the effectiveness of theses odor reduction efforts and found that the fence and trees combined reduce odors coming off of our farms by up to 50%.

But we’re just getting started, and we thought of no better day to start our 2019 push than today—Arbor Day!s

Arbor Day has its roots in agriculture, with its start coming at a meeting of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture in 1872. During that meeting, a pioneer named J. Sterling Morton, advocated for more trees to be planted on the prairies of Nebraska to serve as windbreaks, fuel, or building materials, and as a practice to keep soil in place. The Board set the date for the first Arbor Day as April 10, 1872, and on that day it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Project Green: Planting Our Trees AND Shrubs

In honor of J. Sterling Morton and our farmer ancestors, we kicked today off with ‘Project Green’—our next phase of our Green Farmstead Partner Program. To launch Project Green, our team planted 80 techny arborvitae trees and 82 lilac bushes at Hog Heaven Finisher Farm just outside of Melbourne. You may remember the name Hog Heaven from our newsletter that featured the Vancise family.


“We chose the techny arborvitae for Iowa Select Farms‘ Project Green because it is a long-living, hardy tree that does well in Iowa soils and is able to withstand harsh climates, especially Iowa’s winters,” said Alex Frazier with Frazier Nursery. “The one potential concern could be a dry year, but Iowa Select Farms went above and beyond by installing irrigation to help out in those instances.” The trees and shrubs planted today are the same that will be planted at all new finisher farms.

In addition to the techny arborvitae, every finisher farm will get either lilac or dogwood bushes along the backside of the barn. Lilacs evoke childhood memories of picking fragrant bouquets for those special ladies in our lives - perhaps being ‘borrowed’ from the neighbor’s prized bush. Midwest Living once called them “spring’s favorite perfume”. The alternative to the lilac on our sites is the dogwood shrub, which is known for its colorful red branches throughout the winter. Like the lilac, the dogwood flowers in the spring, but with a less showy or fragrant white flower.

cProject Green is an ambitious initiative – this year alone, we hope to plant more than 5,000 trees – and it wouldn’t be possible without a great Homegrown Iowa company, Frazier Nursery, out of Vinton. Started nearly 30 years ago by John and Carolyn Frazier, Frazier Nursery was originally a side hustle away from John’s full-time job. However, to uncover the true beginning of Frazier Nursery, you have to go back to 1978. John was a senior at English Valley High School in North English when he planted his first windbreak on his family’s farm. “I fell in love with the idea of windbreaks and what they do for farms and the environment,” reflected John.

To make it a true family affair, a few years ago, John’s son Alex and daughter-in-law Liz joined the business. The family still can’t shake that need for a side hustle, but now that side gig is farming – both row crop and livestock. As with most farmers, farming is in the bloodlines, and John Frazier is no different. He grew up raising pigs and cattle, so he fully understands and appreciates the value of what a windbreak does for a livestock farm. While they do some residential work, today, Frazier Nursery focuses on windbreaks for Iowa’s farmers. A tip of the hat – or spade – to Frazier Nursery for being a great Homegrown Iowa partner with us for Project Green!

cExtensive research has been conducted on the effectiveness of windbreaks on farms of all sizes. However, until recently, there was no research on the effectiveness of a new technology, the electrostatic fence, on reducing odors from livestock farms. Last year, we partnered with Dr. Dan Andersen with Iowa State University to research the reduction in dust and odor since the installation of an electrostatic fence.

The big question has always been – does it actually work? After this research, we can confidently say: yes! Dr. Andersen provides a more scientific explanation, “We did see a statistical difference when the fence was on, with the average reduction in odor being 31%.” When coupled with the trees and shrubs functioning as a windbreak, and the omission of pit fans, Dr. Andersen estimates the odor reduced on Iowa Select Farms’ new finisher farms is by 50%. With these results, Iowa Select Farms has reaffirmed our commitment to use both technologies on all new finisher farms. You can find a layout of the single barn here and the double barn here.

cThe first thing to bloom every spring is hope from farmers. Hope for a bountiful crop, plentiful (but not too plentiful) rains, fewer breakdowns than last year, profitable markets, the list goes on. Mother Nature presented numerous challenges throughout 2018, however, spring 2019 is upon us and hope once again blooms for all Iowa farmers, including us at Iowa Select Farms, the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, and Frazier Nursery.

Stay tuned for exciting Project Green updates. Like we said—we’re just getting started. Happy Arbor Day, everyone!