Linn County hog farmers selected for national environmental award

Linn County hog farmers selected for national environmental award

Sept. 20, 2013

Tyler Bettin, Producer Education Director
(800) 372-7675 or


(CLIVE, Iowa) – The Pork Checkoff’s Environmental Stewards subcommittee has selected an Iowa hog farming family as one of four U.S. winners of the 2013 Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award.

Russell Brothers, LLC, from Monticello joins the other award winners, as well as pork operations across the country, in their commitment to protecting natural resources while minimizing the environmental footprint.

Jason and Sarah Russell are building on a family legacy that can be traced back to the Civil War when the Russell family established its roots in Linn County. With Jason’s brother, Eric, they raise pigs, corn, soybeans and hay on 390 owned acres and 160 custom-farmed acres. They market more than 14,000 hogs a year as part of the Maschhoff production network.

“We’re very excited [about receiving the award],” said Jason. “It’s good to be recognized for the hard work. We’ve been working to make this farm more sustainable for the public image and the [pork] industry for the last 10 years.”

The Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award, now in its 19th year, recognizes U.S. producers who demonstrate a firm commitment to safeguarding the environment and their local communities. The winners were chosen earlier this year based on their manure management systems, water and soil conservation practices, odor-control strategies, farm aesthetics, neighbor relations, wildlife habitat promotion and innovative ideas used to protect the environment. The judges represented pork producers and environmental organizations.

“Iowa’s pork producers work hard to deliver safe food and strive for continuous improvement,” said Tyler Bettin, IPPA producer education director. “Russell’s strong commitments to quality pork production, conservation, neighbor relations and the We Care ethical principles make them well deserving of this recognition.”

When it comes to their environmental stewardship efforts, Russell is most proud of their commitment to energy savings. A 50-kilowatt wind turbine helps the farm conserve electric energy by generating 60 to 80 percent of the farm’s needs, depending on the year. They are contemplating adding solar power to supplement the wind energy and allow the farm to become a total net exporter of energy.

The Russells do as much as possible to protect the environment in their farming business. They are taking a more precise approach to manure and pesticide application to prevent over-application.

“I’d like to get into strip-tilling manure to prevent the need to supplement with nitrogen in the spring and reduce compaction,” Jason said.

Highly erodible areas in fields are seeded to create extra-wide grass waterways and help stop soil erosion. Cover crops such as cereal rye and triticale have been planted in recent years and 400 acres of winter wheat will be planted this fall. Jason has four acres of riparian buffers to prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and other pollutants from reaching nearby streams. They no-till soybeans and turn the end rows of fields too steep to be farmed into hay ground.

The Russell’s environmental philosophy is quite simple.

“My dad and grandfather taught me that you have to make [the farm] better each year or you won’t be farming eventually,” said Jason. “So, that’s what we do.”

The subcommittee also selected Bacon Hill Farm in Dodge, Neb.; Krikke Pork in Greenwich, Ohio; and Blue Mountain Farms in Milford, Utah, as award recipients.

The 2013 Environmental Stewards will be officially recognized at the 2014 National Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City, Mo., next March



Editor’s Note: A photo of Jason Russell is available upon request.