Howard County Farm Family Sees Value in Trees

04-14-2014 in Green Farmstead Partner

Jason Ludwig was spending a lot of time in the winter moving snow at his hog sites and decided he needed to do something different. “We were digging pit fans out all the time. We tried plastic snow fence, but the wind blew so hard that it tore it up. We needed something more permanent,” he said.

Ludwig, who farms near Elma with his father John and brother Darrin, not only wanted to control snow and wind at their hog sites, but also wanted to improve the appearance and eye appeal of their sites. He had driven past and admired other sites with trees and noticed the nicer they looked, the less they seemed to smell.

Another goal was to reduce odor and be good to their neighbors. “We try to make it as painless as possible for our neighbors,” Ludwig said, adding that they use pit additives to help reduce odor.

The progressive farm family decided to try tree plantings and turned to the Green Farmstead Partner program for assistance. And Ludwig is thankful he did. “The Coalition recommended a landscaper and I was very impressed with the work he did. I just had to give him the dimensions of the building. They did the rest.”

In the spring of 2012, the Ludwigs planted over 600 hybrid willows at two of their hog sites with the help and expertise of Matt Roelfs with Advanced Greenscapes, one of the professional landscapers participating in the Green Farmstead Partner program.

If he had tried to do the planting on his own, Ludwig says he would have had to spend a lot more time researching what to plant and where to plant, not to mention the amount of time he would have had wrapped up in the installation and watering. As with most farm families, extra time isn’t easy to find.

For their family, working through the Green Farmstead Partner program was a very easy process. After Advanced Greenscapes installed the trees, Ludwig says all he had to do was hook-up the hose for the automatic irrigation system. “I would never do it again without putting the dripline in,” he added, reflecting on childhood memories of watering trees by hand for his parent’s farmstead windbreak.

“I was surprised with the (trees’) growth,” Ludwig said. “By the first winter, they were 6-8 feet tall. Now they’re 18-20 feet tall.” He’s convinced hybrid willows were the right trees to plant. “Other trees would have taken a long time to remedy the snow and see the same results we have with the willows.”

With recent spikes in propane prices, he’s been keeping a closer eye on energy costs. While he hasn’t noticed an overall difference in propane usage between the sites with trees and the one without, he did notice that when the buildings were sitting empty between turns, the sites with trees didn’t take as much LP to heat, thanks to the windbreak.

In fact, the family is considering adding trees to their other hog site, given the benefits they’ve already seen.

“The trees have really changed the appearance of the sites. (Before) it looked naked, but, now, with the trees, the whole site is more eye appealing,” he concluded.

To learn more about the Green Farmstead Partner program, or to get started on a tree planting for your livestock or poultry farm, visit www.supportfarmers.com/greenfarms or call the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers at 800-932-2436.

The Ludwigs’ farm in Howard County and raise corn, soybeans, hogs and cattle.

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