After a hot summer day of working pigs, nothing is more relaxing than heading to the lake to cast a fishing line. For Ronnie and Rocky Means, it is a short commute.
The father and son simply walk across the gravel driveway, stop by the family cabin for a cold beverage, and then grab a lawn chair and make their way over to the dock. The two built their 17-acre recreation lake right next to the 2,300-head pig nursery barn.
For Ronnie, the lake is a gathering place. “We open the cabin up to family and friends,” he says. “A few will pull in campers. We like to get together.”
• Caring for the environment can create opportunities.
• Manure management is key to improving land and the bottom line.
• Neighbors appreciate good environmental stewards.
However, Ronnie knows the lake serves an even greater purpose. “You don’t often see a lake and a cabin right next to a hog facility,” he says. “But here it is.”
Modeling good swine production practices that protect and enhance the environment is always at the heart of this family operation. For their unique efforts in protecting and enhancing the environment, the Missouri Pork Association awarded the Means family the 2012 Missouri Environmental Steward Award.
Ronnie says the family’s commitment to the land and environment comes down to one key element: managing manure.
The Meanses rely solely on the nutrients produced on site to fertilize 600 acres of row crops and forage at their Barton County farm. “We do not purchase fertilizer,” he says.
Pits under the two barns capture the manure. Outside each barn is an earthen lagoon that holds 300,000 gallons. “We irrigate out of it onto our alfalfa crops,” Ronnie explains. He also will use the manure to fertilize corn acres.
To further increase the manure’s reach, Ronnie worked with the state soil conservation agency to put in underground piping from each lagoon to different ports throughout surrounding fields. Then an 850-foot-long reel piping system, which moves from each port, distributes manure over a 250-foot radius as it slowly pulls back from the port. This system greatly minimizes soil compaction in the fields.
The two men credit the system for extending stand life. Ronnie says they have had healthy stands for up to 13 years. The proof is in forage production. The family has been able to take five cuttings of alfalfa hay from the ground around the site every growing season.
Protect and improve
The Meanses believe protecting the environment while improving the land is achievable. “Environmental stewardship means, straight out — be responsible,” Ronnie says. “Do not overapply. This [manure] is a great product, with great nutrients in it. Taking care of our land is an investment in our future and our family’s future.”
Ultimately, the reward for Ronnie comes in being able to share his farm life with others — even if it’s sitting with friends on the bank, just waiting to see the bobber disappear into the clear water below.
FARM-FRIENDLY: Ronnie Means takes time to relax, knowing he has done his part to safeguard the land for future generations.
This article published in the April, 2012 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.