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Plans for possible hog farm near Farber city limits put on hold

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

Editor’s Note to published story: New location is not on Audrain County Road 609. Instead it is the final gravel road on the right just off Route AA, approximately 1 1/2 miles to 2 miles down the gravel road.

For the past month, several Farber residents have expressed their concerns about a possible hog farm operation proposed for construction just outside the city limits of their town near the cemetery.
After formulating a certified letter with nearly 35 families signing it, their voices were heard and as of this past weekend the original site for the operation has been changed.
Something Travis Dixon, the farmer who is planning the hog farm operation with Cargill, knew was the right thing to do.
“We decided given the feelings and everything, Cargill and I have been in talks with how we should handle it,” Dixon said. “… Even though I was within all of my set backs legally and had all the manure rights, we thought for the sake of being a good neighbor and trying to compromise, we’d try to find a new build site.”
Dixon originally purchased 14.53 acres from Thomas and John Becker of Becker Bros. Farms, Inc. for a possible 7,200 head operation.
Dixon said he was pressured to get land under his name and he did before getting a chance to check with the neighbors.
“Having to do it over again I probably would have not rushed into it,” he added. “It seemed like it was a little rushed and it was…I do regret not thinking about the cemetery.”
Dixon said the deal also included a set period of nutrients of operation to be given to the Beckers.
With the need to change sites, Dixon said the Beckers have released him from his contract and he’s in the process of looking for a new site of operation.
Farber resident Keith Leadley was one of the first residents to express his concerns with the original site location that was less than one-half mile from his residence.
Concerns expressed by Leadley and other Farber residents in the letter sent to Dixon included possible pumping out of waste of manure lagoons and spreading the waste onto flooded fields. Concerns were shared regarding the effects to Bear and Hickory Creeks, Vandalia Lake, groundwater, and drinking water supply.
There were also concerns on possible effects to residents with pulmonary issues like asthma and COPD. Residents also were not looking forward to “opening windows on a nice spring day and receiving a hog stench.” The letter listed concerns related to a possible smell while many visit the graveside of loved ones.
“I told (those involved) that they already put the city sewer on the land and irrigation, I said the water has to go somewhere and now you’re going to put a hog barn out here near a cemetery?,” Leadley added. “…I said Travis I know you’re a young guy trying to get established in something but I thought it this was a pretty bad…”
Dixon said some of the things alleged in the letter were not in his plans, especially regarding lagoons.
“I’m not putting manure on the ground, I’d inject what I spread,” he said.
Dixon said he’d use dragline injection for a 4,960 head operation, for example. He said the smell would be pretty noticeable just the 2 1/2 days it takes for the process every year. Dixon, who is currently traveling many months at a time away from his family, is looking to settle down and live out his dream of running a hog farm.
“I raised hogs growing up; it’s always been my dream to farm and I’ve worked towards that end,” he said.
Dixon said the new plan is likely constructing an operation around his father’s farm located on Audrain Road 609.
“We’ll probably put it there unless we find another site,” he said. “It puts me a lot further from anybody as far as houses go and out of the dominant wind direction. There will be trees to buffer between me and town.”
He said with the new technology in the hog farm industry, the newer barns don’t have the smell the older ones do. Dixon said he will be using rendering.
“We have been going to great lengths in the pork industry to try and help this,” he said.”We want to ge good neighbors and be good stewards. We definitely want to do it the right way. We’re not out to effect people’s quality of life…I spent a week and a half trying to go around to all the neighbors I could, trying to show them we’re just young farmers trying to make a go of it…”