Manure from pigs near the small town of Milford powers 3,000 homes and businesses in Springville, more than 150 miles away.
Turning on the lights represents just one perk of pigs. Circle Four Farms, based in Milford in southern Utah, creates a $54 million direct economic impact to the area. It employs 20 percent of the Beaver County workforce, providing jobs for 470 people and recording about $20 million in annual payroll.
In addition, the farm buys all the grain it can from local farmers and even dedicates a season to sustainability efforts. New trees in local communities, a 5K fun run and even cleaner highway ditches can be attributed to Circle Four Farms.
“We believe in being a good neighbor. It’s the right thing to do,” says Jim Webb, director of environmental, safety and public affairs at Circle Four Farms. “We care about the communities we operate in, and we’re here to make a positive impact.”
The farm, part of one of the largest hog operations in the country, has also committed to reduce its carbon footprint and conserve natural resources.
Bringing Home The Bacon
One of the farm’s Blue Mountain sites earned the 2013 U.S. Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award, which recognizes pork producers who demonstrate a positive commitment to environmental stewardship. While only one site could be the award recipient, the stewardship practices that earned the honor extend across the farm’s 64 sites.
The Utah Pork Producers Association congratulates the farm on this industry honor.
“Circle Four Farms receiving the Stewardship Award is a fantastic example to the agricultural family of Utah that hog farmers are concerned with the environment, community and providing a healthy quality product for consumers,” says Allison Fiscus, promotions, communications and education director for the Utah Pork Producers Association.
Generating Electricity From Swine Manure
Circle Four Farms is a farrow- to-finish hog operation; meaning pigs are there from before birth through full maturity. The farm maintains 75,000 sows, or mother pigs, and produces about 1.5 million market hogs per year.
Those pigs produce a lot of manure, all of which is used to serve two purposes.
Part of it powers homes and businesses. The rest is dried and used to fertilize farm fields at the recommended agronomic rate.
Circle Four Farms started its manure-to-energy project in 2012, when it signed a manure supply agreement with Alpental Energy Partners to supply manure from the farm sites. From there, several anaerobic digesters convert it into biogas, which produces electricity and heat.
Misconceptions about modern- day pork production abound. Water often tops the list.
“We’re viewed as using a lot of water, but we’re really not,” Webb says. “We use enough water to irrigate about 600 acres of alfalfa to raise all of the hogs.”
The farm establishes water balances and budgeted targets at every farm site. Pigs drink from water nipples, which provide only the amount of water a pig desires to access for a drink. The farm sites use recycled lagoon water, not fresh water, to flush manure from the barns.
Meanwhile, lagoon liners at Circle Four Farms exceed government-required standards to avoid groundwater contamination.
“It’s a great company to work for. We continue to be a good neighbor that supports the lifestyle of rural Utah,” Webb says. “We operate in a county with only 6,000 people in it. People live here for the lifestyle that type of environment provides, and we want to be part of that.”