An environmentally conscious farm family from Linn Co. has received the 2012 Environmental Steward Award from the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA).

IPPA presented Jason Russell of Russell Brothers, LLC, of Prairieburg with the award, a trophy and $1,000 cash during last night's 41st annual Iowa Pork Congress Banquet in Des Moines.

Russell Brothers includes Jason; brother, Eric; father, Dennis; and uncles, Dave, Ralph, Moe and John Russell. The family built a 7,200-head wean-to-finish hog barn in 2003. Jason is part owner of the facility and provides the day-to-day management and care of the pigs. The site is currently operated under contract with the Maschhoffs.

A 50-kilowatt wind turbine on the farm helps offset energy costs. The energy company, for this site, pays on net metering, allowing the Russells to directly use energy created by the turbine and for excess energy created to be sold back at near retail rates. Jason estimates a five year payback for the turbine on the site.

Russell utilizes a roofed compost structure to dispose of mortalities on the farm and aid in biosecurity. Recycled countertop scraps from a local factory are used as a substrate for the compost.

Wet-dry feeders, water cups and built in pre-soakers for powerwashing events are used to aid in water conservation on the site. Feed and pit additives are used to reduce phosphorus excretion, minimize nitrogen loss, reduce ammonia emissions from the barn, break up solids and reduce flies.

The Russells use vertical conservation tillage to reduce soil compaction and limit soil erosion. Manure is applied with a drag hose and Aerway incorporation system. Nitrogen stabilizer is added to preserve nutrients in the soil, improve crop yield and protect water quality. Grass waterways limit runoff and provide additional refuge for wildlife.

All 480 crop-acres operated by Russell Brothers, LLC, are enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program. This includes additional payments to offset costs for guided fall stalk nitrate testing, which aids in calculation of precise nutrient needs for the crop. The family also is experimenting with the use of wheat cover crops. A windbreak on the farm aids in reduction of particulate matter and odor leaving the farm.

The Russells have a strong commitment to ag advocacy and neighbor relations. The barn site was setback significantly from the road to limit odor impacts on others. They donate pork to numerous area events, provide free pork to all neighbors within one mile of the site and are conscious about communicating with them prior to manure application. They also offer tours for Kirkwood Community College students and foreign visitors.

Jason lives on the home farm near Prairieburg with his wife, Sara, and young daughter.

The Environmental Steward Award was established in 2007 by the IPPA Environmental Committee to recognize pork producers who go above and beyond in environmental stewardship. The selection committee judges nominees on the producer's manure management, soil and water conservation practices, air quality strategies, wildlife habitat management and environmental management innovations.

The selection committee consists of the IPPA Board of Directors, the IPPA Environmental Committee and Iowa State University Extension and Pheasants Forever officials.