RIDGE FARM — A livestock company with local roots hopes to continue its expansion of hog facilities with a new site near Ridge Farm and three more in Iroquois County.
Parks Livestock, which started near Danville and now operates across multiple states, in late July applied to the Illinois Department of Agriculture for permits to build a 34,400-square-foot hog finishing facility outside Ridge Farm. The application said it would house up to 4,500 pigs.
Officials with the state agency are holding a public information meeting to discuss the proposed facility from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the David S. Palmer Arena, 100 W. Main St., Danville.
Agriculture’s Krista Lisser said the department is required to notify county officials of any plans for hog facilities over a certain size, and either the county or its registered voters can request an informational meeting. In this case, she said, Vermilion County officials requested the meeting.
Similar informational meetings were held last month in Iroquois County concerning Parks’ plans to build three hog facilities near Stockland, each with the capacity to house up to 4,500 swine.
Parks Livestock opened similar but larger facilities in 2018 just north of Fithian.
David James, special projects coordinator with Parks, said the project southwest of Ridge Farm would be smaller than either of the two Fithian-area sites, which each have two double-roomed hog barns. The Ridge Farm facility would have a single two-room barn, James said.
The facility would be built on land owned by Ridge Farm area farmers Alan and Leesa Chestnut, who said they would use the resulting manure to fertilize their crops.
In a fact sheet about the project provided by Parks Livestock officials, Alan Chestnut said they are looking for an organic source of fertilizer to make their family farm more sustainable and self-sufficient, and they have seen an advantage using manure from the pigs that their four boys have raised.
The three proposed Stockland facilities would also have one two-room barn on each site, according to James.
Parks would own the facilities, built on farmer-owned ground, and partner with The Equity, an Effingham-based agricultural cooperative that provides the facilities with newly-weaned pigs to raise.
Hogs raised at the existing Fithian-area facilities are shipped to a Tyson Foods plant in Logansport, Ind., for processing.
The Equity, which opened a $16 million livestock feed mill more than a year ago south of Chrisman, northern Edgar County, would also supply the feed and veterinary care to the four proposed hog finishing facilities.
It’s the same arrangement used at the two Parks Livestock sites north of Fithian and another hog finishing facility that opened in 2017 several miles west of Rossville.
James said the feed mill south of Chrisman is definitely the driver behind this expansion in East Central Illinois, and it relies on locally grown crops.
Annually, hogs raised at the Ridge Farm facility would consume an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 bushels of corn and 3,000 to 4,000 bushels of soybean meal, officials said. The facility would have computer-controlled ventilation, and the manure would be stored underneath in a concrete reservoir several feet deep, according to Parks.
That manure would be pumped once a year to fertilize 300 to 400 acres of nearby cropland in a method that injects the manure a few inches into the soil, according to Parks officials, who explained that the facilities would be built according to the state’s Livestock Management Facilities Act, which includes requirements to protect groundwater.
Tonight’s meeting is part of the state agriculture department’s review process before approval. The four proposed facilities won’t be able to move forward with construction until they receive that approval.
At the Ridge Farm operation alone, the investment in buildings, equipment and hogs would be $1.2 million to $1.4 million, according to Parks officials.
Kerry Wienke, executive director of the Vermilion County Farm Bureau, said that as long as the new facility near Ridge Farm meets all state requirements, the farm bureau is very supportive of this project, which would also help grain farmers in the region whose crops are used to supply the animals’ feed.