Persistence pays off for young Story Co. hog farmer

Persistence pays off for young Story Co. hog farmer

Posted Oct. 29, 2014

Lucas and Krista Tjelmeland stood and cheerfully greeted everyone who walked through the door of their 3,600-head swine finishing barn. The couple opened their new facility northwest of Nevada to public inspection last night with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The Tjelmeland family has farmed and raised livestock in northern Story County for generations. Lucas, who managed a hog barn in high school, is the fifth generation to do so and he’s naturally excited about the opportunity to now raise hogs on his own. His dream didn’t materialize, however, without some challenges.

Nearly any farmer who applies for a permit to construct a new hog barn in Iowa these days faces some type of push-back, whether its neighbors, the community or activist groups. Tjelmeland was no different.

“Especially in Story County, it was very difficult to get this [barn] through,” he said. “I was pretty persistent and I didn’t want to give up and it’s probably why we’re standing in this barn today. I wanted to get it done.”

Tjelmeland was fortunate in that he also had considerable community support for the project.

“I’ve been around here. I’m the 5th generation to be in this area and I was always the neighbor kid who was always willing to help anyone who needed help,” Tjelmeland said. “Going to the county meeting, I had 15 letters of support from different neighbors. A dozen people stood and spoke on my behalf and supported me at the meeting. That was very nice.”

Lucas also tapped into the free services of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Famers to ensure the barn was properly sited and that he was meeting all of the state regulations for the facility.

“Kent Mowrer answered my calls all times of the day and night if I had questions or concerns and helped me get on the right path as far as talking to the neighbors,” Lucas said. “It’s a very difficult subject and he helped me out a lot.”

Tjelmeland’s support was evident last night as nearly 175 people attended the open house for tours of the barn and a free pork burger dinner.

“This community is part of our family in so many different ways. We want to see it continue to grow and flourish, and have our future generations continue to carry on the legacy,” Tjelmeland said. “We also understand for this to happen we must be committed to protecting the environment and communicating openly with our neighbors.”

Tjelmeland will raise hogs on contract with the Maschoff’s, the Illinois-based production company that will supply the pigs. The first loads were due in Oct. 30.

“I can’t wait to get pigs in the barn and get started,” Lucas said.

The event was sponsored by CSIF, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Maschoff’s and others.

The construction and day-to-day operation of a 3,600-head hog barn like the Tjelmeland’s will create 12 jobs and generate $2.1 million for Story County in the first year alone.