Many of the Bell generations before me raised pigs, so when I was looking for an opportunity to diversify our farm once again, raising pigs just felt right. In 2017, I built our current barn.
As a young farmer, itís a big risk, but at the same time if you donít take any risks in life, you wonít gather any reward from it either.
Raising pigs has been a real positive for our family. My hope is that my kids will continue farming and be the seventh generation to farm here.
Crops and livestock work together
Illinois is a great place to raise both crops and livestock. We have fertile soil, especially with the addition of pig manure, in which corn and soybeans grow really well. Those crops are then turned into pig feed for my animals, and pork for your plate.
The cycle continues as we use the pigsí manure as a natural fertilizer that has the main nutrients our crops need to grow, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Plus, it contains micronutrients and microorganisms that improve our soil fertility.
Continuous improvement with cover crops
I enjoy trying new things on the farm and have a goal of having cover crops on 100% of our farmland. Cover crops are crops that are planted in fall and grow until spring. They reduce soil erosion by keeping soil in place, improve soil health by providing nutrients and enhance the overall soil structure by increasing organic matter that absorbs more water, and reducing water erosion when we get larger rainfall events.