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Farm odor will be examined, Jackrabbit CEO says

One of the Jackrabbit Family Farms facilities pictured Friday in southwest Davison County. (Marcus Traxler/Republic) 1 / 3
One of the Jackrabbit Family Farms facilities pictured Friday in southwest Davison County. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)2 / 3
One of the Jackrabbit Family Farms facilities pictured Friday in southwest Davison County. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)3 / 3

MOUNT VERNON — The CEO of the company that manages Jackrabbit Family Farms said there will be an examination of the complaints regarding alleged odors from its hog operation.

Pipestone System CEO Luke Minion believes complaints are stemming from people who have always been against the farm, located about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon.

Minion said complaints that were brought to the Davison County commissioners earlier this week will be taken seriously. Minion added he’s never heard a complaint about the farm and its smell in 10 years as CEO.

“We will make sure there’s not a problem there,” Minion told The Daily Republic in an interview earlier this week. “But we followed the process and took the steps to get approved and to be good neighbors. Now the neighbors that have always been against the project, they’re speaking up after the fact.”

The farm has about 5,000 sows and produces about 3,000 piglets weekly. It was approved in 2012 and opened in May 2013. A group of investors, including some who live close to the farm, make up the ownership of Jackrabbit Family Farms. Pipestone System, based in Minnesota, operates the farm for Jackrabbit’s investors.

“To my knowledge, we’ve met all of the requirements set forth for us by the county,” Minion said. “We’ve planted trees on the property, which was a requirement, and we’ve made improvements to the road. We did those things to be neighborly and that was the case with the biofilters, as well.”

Minion said of the company’s farms, only about 10 percent use the biofilter technology. He said the filters were added to the farm’s barn design at a significant cost. They are there to mitigate the smell and odors that come from the operation.

At Tuesday’s Davison County Commission meeting, four neighbors of the farm -- some of whom live within a mile of its location -- said the smell was so strong that they could not be outside. Some also said the smell was making members of their families sick. They claimed the farm and its operators are not being good neighbors because of the smell. The conditional-use permit did not require the farm to install biofilters on the barns, but Minion said the farm installed it to help ease the odor.

The commissioners did not take action because the issue was brought up during citizens input, but said they would like to spend more time researching the issue, including potentially making a visit to the site.

Site visits conducted by the county’s planning and zoning department has pointed to the smell of the farm, and where it can be detected depends on wind speed and direction.

Minion said it’s difficult to single out Jackrabbit Family Farms when other types of agriculture or businesses can create heavy odors, as well.

“Pigs smell. Cows smell. Horses smell,” he said. “Municipalities can create odors. You can point to a lot of different areas where there’s smells.”

Minion said he feels comfortable defending the methods for odor reduction at Jackrabbit Farms to the Davison County Commission.

“If they’re going to be at every meeting and badger the commissioners about the smell of the farm, we’re going to be there and defend ourselves,” Minion said. “Unless it’s legitimate and there’s something that we’ve agreed to and have not done, we will certainly refute things said about our farms that are not true.”