Being an evironmentally sound pork farmer
Tom Brown and his brother Randy own a farrow-to-finish pork operation in Morral, Ohio. A family-run operation since 1951, Brown’s Maken Bacon Farms Inc. also grows 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans. Brown has been in the farming business for 40 years.
How did you get into farming?
My dad and grandfather had a farm and I grew up working on it as a kid. My earliest memory of food is probably just working on a livestock farm.
Have business practices changed for you in the last 10 years?
As we get more educated we learn more about what we can do better. For example, we have changed the way we haul our manure to meet nitrogen and phosphorus based standards. We don’t just haul it to the fields that are closest to the barn; we’ll haul it farther away so there’s a better nutrient balance on the field and a better fertility profile.
Also, there are many new technologies. We have cleaner fields and fewer weeds, which helps our yields. Our corn is better able to utilize moisture and protect the plant against insects. We have round up ready corn, just like we have round up ready beans.
What is your greatest challenge as a pork farmer?
I think just making sure that we are being environmentally sound. We work pretty hard at doing that. In fact, a couple years ago we won an environmental stewardship award for hog production. The American farmer wants to grow food that is abundant, safe and affordable for people throughout the world. We want to continue to put back on the earth whatever we take out and make it a better place for all to live.
How will farming evolve in the next five years?
There are herbicide technologies coming on board that will help us feed the world. I also think sustainability will become more important. I think as time goes by and we learn more, we will probably adapt new technologies to improve the way we do things. Where we are now, I think we’re doing what we should be doing, but we’re always open to learn, and do things better in the future.
Do you sell any of your products locally?
We sell our soybeans locally and then buy bean meal to replace our protein portion for our livestock. We also buy some corn locally as well.
How can we best educate the consumer about sustainability?
Consumers need to learn as we learn things. We should encourage them to help the environment by reducing the carbon footprint, and they should realize that increasingly, better technologies are helping us to do that.
Tom Brown will be just one of the many farmers featured in our upcoming Public Television special, Phil Lempert’s Food Sense, now in production. This interview is an excerpt from his story that is scheduled to air Winter 2009.