Brinker Farms shows how a modern pork and row-crop farm can protect the soil, water and air, while caring for livestock and wildlife.
The Brinkers were one of the nation’s first farm families to adopt the National Pork Board’s Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan program, but their conservation journey began long before.
When Kenny and his wife, Susan, relocated to a Callaway County farm in 1993 it presented an opportunity to design new hog facilities, but came with environmental challenges.
To protect water quality, funding from the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helped construct more than 40 grass waterways, 10 miles of terraces and tile outlets. Variable-rate technology reduces their risk of over applying crop nutrients and helps optimize plant uptake and prevent runoff. Their annual well tests for nitrates and other contaminants document a safe water supply for humans and hogs.
No-till practices on their corn and soybean fields also improved soil health and water quality. However, soil tests confirmed that some of their fields lacked the nutrients needed to grow crops. With EQIP funding for irrigation equipment, nutrients from a manure storage lagoon are distributed to hundreds of acres of cropland, reducing input costs for fertilizer.
When designing their hog facilities, the manure lagoon’s storage capacity was built to safeguard against an excessively wet year. Timber stands surround the hog buildings to mitigate odor drift and provide wildlife habitat.
Cereal rye planted to provide year-round ground cover has improved the soil’s infiltration rate. The Brinkers, who farm with their children, are working with the University of Missouri-Columbia and Montgomery County Extension on a study that examines soybean yield differences when planted into fields where the rye is standing, or recently terminated.
The abundance of rye is part of the reason the farm’s deer population has flourished. The Brinkers developed a plan to enhance the quality of the whitetail deer herd with a state deer biologist. Their crop fields are bordered with more than 30 acres of warm season grasses, alfalfa and forbs. Another six acres of food plots of wheat, clover, sunflowers and grain crops are planted to provide habitat for quail and rabbits.
The farm once had a neglected wet area where 300 acres drained to one spot. The Brinkers worked with soil conservationists to design a dam that would replace the steep gully that had formed. It created a six-acre wetland that attracts beavers, muskrat, ducks and geese.
The Brinker’s business model has a focus on their farrow-to-finish operation, Harrison Creek Farms, as well as processing and marketing Brinker Farms Pork.
The Brinkers welcome fellow pork producers from around the globe to demonstrate how technological advancements position modern pork production operations as a model for environmental stewardship.
Harrison Creek Farms received the National Pork Board/National Hog Farmer’s Environmental Steward of the Year Award in 2006.