Where the blue spruce grows

Planting clusters of the trees around pig barns gaining popularity as an environmental practice. The buffers provide a windbreak, recycle air and add curb appeal.

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Taylor Wildermuth, Henry County Pork Producers president and Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) member, stands in front of his barn where he planted 30 Colorado blue spruce trees in 2016 with help from the IPPA tree buffer cost-share program. (Photo by Jenny Jackson)

By Rita Frazer

In the 1974 movie “Where the Red Fern Grows,” Billy Colman works hard and saves his earnings for two years to achieve his dream of buying two coonhound pups.

In Henry County, Illinois farmer Taylor Wildermuth has worked hard for years to achieve his dream of being a pig farmer just like his dad and grandpa.

“My grandfather farrowed a lot of pigs in the field, and so growing up, I helped with that,” Wildermuth said. “I don’t know if it’s a genetic thing that’s born in you, but I just enjoyed helping him and working with pigs.”     

Wildermuth later acted on his desire to farm, getting into the pig business alongside his wife after college. In 2015, Wildermuth and his family built a 2,480-head wean-to-market pig barn. Animal care and the environment were considered first during every step of the siting and building process.

Wildermuth was accepted for the first round of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) tree buffer cost-share program, an incentive for farmers to implement fresh landscaping on their pig farms.

“Tree buffers are just one of the current best management practices that pig farmers are embracing to benefit the environment,” said Jennifer Tirey, IPPA executive director. “We are proud to offer these cost-share opportunities to progressive pig farmers who understand the importance of stewardship for our future generations.”

Related: Farmers’ conservation efforts on display for all to see. Read more here.

Farmers plant tree buffers to provide a windbreak, recycle air and add curb appeal. Wildermuth is part of the second group of farmers who took advantage of the program; applications for the third year are available at ilpork.com.

The cost-share program is offered to Illinois pig farmers on a first-come, first-served bases. Funding aids with the purchase of trees and shrubs, as well as design and tree placement. Applications will be accepted through June 1.

Ted Funk, a retired agricultural engineering consultant at the University of Illinois, works with livestock farmers on the buffers and other projects. He’s worked with many farmers to suggest the best types of trees for the desired location.

In Wildermuth’s case, a buffer full of Colorado blue spruce trees from a local nursery proved to be the perfect fit for the new pig barn.

“It’s exciting to work with pork producers who are committed to making their farms look great by using strategic landscaping vegetation,” Funk said. “I’m pleased to see the continuing interest of Illinois commodity groups in helping make healthy, attractive communities.”

In addition to a partnership with the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program, the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) also contributed to the second round of the statewide tree buffer program.   

“Illinois Farm Bureau has made leading on environmental issues a priority, and this partnership brings real benefits to both pig farmers and the environment,” said Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of natural and environmental resources.

Like the red fern that grew where Old Dan and Little Ann were buried in Billy Coman’s Ozark hills, Wildermuth’s blue spruce trees also represent hope and proof of character. The Henry County farmer knows his work today will ensure that his family farm will thrive and be there for the next generation. 

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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