Improving Perceptions of Agriculture: The Larsen Family

10-06-2014 in Green Farmstead Partner

Brian and Sally Larsen are proud to call St. Anthony, Iowa home. In 2012, they grew their family farm with the addition of a 2,480-head Cargill hog barn.

That fall, they reached out to the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) for information about planting trees through the Green Farmstead Partner (GFP) program.

“If you’re going to do something, why not do it right and make it look nice,” Brian said. “CSIF has the expertise. I wouldn’t have known where to begin, where to plant or what to plant. I couldn’t afford to plant them in the wrong place and figure out it was wrong in a couple years.”

The Larsens met with the CSIF staff to better identify their goals for a tree planting, while taking into account specific considerations for their hog site. First and foremost, they wanted their site to look nice. “Trees help the overall appearance. At the end of the day, how your farm looks impacts how people perceive you,” Brian said. “I want good relationships with my neighbors and the community.”

Additionally, protecting the barn from winter winds and controlling snow were also important considerations.

At that point, the Larsens reached out to a landscaper involved in the GFP program for assistance putting together a detailed plan.

The following spring, the trees were planted by Advanced Greenscapes, one of the nursery and landscape professionals involved in the GFP program. The plan included two rows of hybrid willows on the north side of the barn, along with one row of cranberry bushes along the highway for visual appeal.

The rows of hybrid willows wrap around the west side of the barn for additional protection from winter snow and wind, as well as visual screening. In addition, a timed, rain-sensitive irrigation system was installed to help the trees get off to a good start.

During the first summer, the hybrid willows grew 6-8 feet. Now, after only two growing seasons, the well-manicured site boasts trees that are pushing 15 feet tall.

Brian is thrilled the trees are now big enough to help control snow and wind. As an added bonus, several people have commented that the trees have grown so much they can’t see the hog barn from the highway.

In fact, their college-age son spent the summer away from home on an internship. When he returned home at the end of the summer, he remarked that now people really have to look to even notice there is a hog barn there.

Brian doesn’t hesitate to encourage other farmers to plant trees. “Do it – hands down. Trees are going to pay for themselves in the long run by controlling snow and wind, improving neighbor relations and reducing odor,” he said. “Trees are going to help with everything.”

For more information on tree plantings, the Green Farmstead Partner program, or to get started on a design for your livestock or poultry farm, visit or call

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