Tag Archives: Environment

iowa turkey farm trees

Concerned to Confident: A Turkey Farmer’s Story

Concerned to Confident: A Turkey Farmer’s Story 

Henry County, located in rural southeast Iowa, has an economy largely powered by agriculture. Just over twenty percent of the jobs in the county are related to agriculture, and over half of those are in the livestock industry.

The area is well-known for its turkey production. Ben Leichty is one of the area’s turkey farmers. In 2008, Leichty joined his uncle Kevin on the 3rd generation family farm and put up two of his own turkey barns.

The site is located on the top of a small ridge and had nothing blocking the wind. When he learned about the Green Farmstead Partner program at an Iowa Turkey Federation area meeting, his interest in planting trees was piqued. 

While the idea of planting trees to improve the aesthetics of the farm and serve as a windbreak and natural snow fence interested him, Leichty had concerns. Namely, he didn’t want to attract birds that could potentially carry diseases to the site, nor he did want trees that would require a lot of long-term maintenance. Other concerns included making sure trucks could get in and out of the site easily and avoiding impacts on surrounding farm ground.Leichty for Fresh Pickings

After researching and reading studies about poultry farms in other states that have successfully planted trees and learning about the suggested separation distances from the barns, he decided if a tree planting was done properly, his worries could be laid to rest. At that point, he decided to move forward.

In the spring of 2011, over 120 Techny Arborvitae and Black Hills Spruce wereplanted on the north and west sides of the turkey barns to serve as a windbreak. The site is located on a county highway, so Leichty decided to include ornamental trees by the driveway for extra visual appeal. Egli Landscapes, headquartered out of Waylandand located only a few miles from Leichty’s farm, designed the plan and planted the trees. The trees were purchased from Kelly Tree Farm of Clarence. Both Egli Landscapes and Kelly Tree Farm are involved in the Green Farmstead Partner program and have extensive experience in windbreaks and landscaping.Ben Leichty with turkey barns, trees (2)

“I’m glad I put them (the trees) in when I did and didn’t wait,” Leichty said, reflecting on the last four growing seasons. He added that if he were to start over from scratch, he would do many things exactly the same – he is especially happy with the decision to mulch the entire row (instead of just around each tree) because it made mowing simple.

The only thing he says he might do differently is to add an irrigation system. The first two summers after the trees were planted were exceptionally dry, so Leichty watered the trees by hand on a weekly basis. By the third growing season, he felt comfortable lessening the frequency of watering.

The attention to detail – from quality trees, to exceptional installation, to maintenance – has paid off. Of the 120 trees planted, only one has died. Another tree had bagworms briefly, but after removing them from the tree and a cold winter that killed the bagworms, they have not caused any more issues.Leichty turkey barn with trees (1)

After only four years, the trees are starting to accomplish what Leichty set out to do. “Several people have said the trees and farm look nice,” he said, adding that the trees are starting to drop snow and serve as an effective windbreak. He added that despite his initial concerns, he hasn’t seen an increasein rodents or birds due to the presence of the trees.

He says the advantage of using the GFP program was “being able to get information on trees, make sure they would work with a livestock building, and ensure they would be a wise investment. (The program) connected me with other people who knew about trees.”

Leichty encourages other farmers considering a tree planting on a livestock or poultry farm to “make sure you follow the recommended set-back distances and work with someone knowledgeable about trees so you do it right the first time and don’t take away from your investment in the future.”

To learn more about the Green Farmstead Partner program, or to get started on a tree planting for your farm, visit www.supportfarmers.com/greenfarms or call 800-932-2436.Leichty - NW corner, looking at trees on north side (2)

(Thanks to the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers for the article and photos.)

Solar Panels are Standout Performers on Livestock Farms

By Bethany Baratta

These days, farmer Mike Bates has an extra appreciation for the sun. Not just because it’s helping to grow his crops, but now it’s also helping to power his livestock farm.

Interested in lowering his electricity costs, Washington County Farm Bureau member Mike Bates looked into installing solar panels on his turkey farm.

“For me to take better care of my livestock, I needed to keep them cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter and have better lighting. So I continued to need more electricity,” Bates said.

Ankeny-based CB Solar installed the 100 kW solar array on Bates’ turkey farm one year ago in June. The panels were attached to Bates’ turkey barns. solar turkeys


“I already had the existing buildings at the right angle to the sun to take advantage of all of that energy from the sun. So it was just a fit,” he said.

The panels are converting the sun’s energy to electricity. Through a converter, that then powers the ventilation systems in his turkey barns, feeders, lights and waterers, and also his grain dryer.

Keeping the fans running

“Now, with the solar panels, I feel really comfortable that I can have a lot of fans running to keep those birds comfortable during the heat of the summer,” he said.

Bates also added a solar array to his machine shop, which cuts down on electrical costs on his farmstead.

After crunching the numbers, Washington hog farmer Mike Norman found a solar array to be a great fit for his farm.

Installed last winter, Norman’s solar array converts the sun’s rays to electricity through an adapter. It’s then used to power the feeding system, waterers, ventilation system and lights on his feeder-to-finish hog farm.

“It’s good for the environment and it’s a way we can become self-sufficient,” Norman said.

Bates said he has had no problems with his solar array. It’s able to withstand ping pong ball-sized hail and winds up to 60 miles per hour, he said. And if it rains? That just cleans the panels, he said. Norman said the accumulated snow was tough on the solar panels because the cold weather didn’t allow the solar panels to completely thaw quickly. However, this summer is making up for that.

“We’ve been extremely pleased with what their output has been this summer,” Norman said.

Bates and Norman both worked with Alliant Energy to take advantage of rebates and credits to be applied to their solar projects. Bates said he’ll have the entire project paid for in September—just one year and three months after it was installed. Bates said that might not be the case for every farm in Iowa; size of the farm and project funding is unique for every farm.Mike by solar roof panels

Through Alliant Energy, Bates and Norman are able to bank the extra electricity they generate during the summer for use during the winter. During the month of June, Bates saved $3,000 on electricity. Norman said his solar array has cut his electric bill by 40 to 50 percent.

As they look to the future of their farms, Bates and Norman said that includes more solar projects.

Bates is looking at projects that convert the sun into heat for his turkey barns. Norman said he’ll continue to add solar panels to his new barns.

“Washington County is the No. 1 solar county in the state of Iowa,” Norman said. “It’s an environmentally good thing we can do.”

Bates said using solar energy just makes sense.

“It’s exciting. It’s so simple. You let the sun shine and have no maintenance and no moving parts,” he said. “In my mind, every turkey building, every hog building in the state of Iowa needs a solar panel on top of it because why wouldn’t you?”


Reprinted with permission from the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.