Feedlot proposal stirs a stink near Ellendale
A proposed feedlot that would house nearly 50,000 turkeys in western Steele County is drawing a stink with at least one neighbor who would be in the direct path of potential smells from the operation.
Jim Lageson lives on a 15-acre farm site just west of Ellendale. Though he did not grow up there, he is the fifth generation of his family to live on the farm. “It’s like a dream. As a child, I thought it would be cool to live there,” he said.
But Lageson is beginning to have second thoughts.
Less than a mile from his place, a hog feedlot has been operating for nearly a decade. Members of the Holland family, owners of the hog operation, are now seeking approval from Steele County officials to build four turkey barns in close proximity to their hog feedlot. A second operation would house two barns of 23,000 turkeys near the Berlin Cemetery north of Ellendale. A zoning meeting was set to tackle the issue Monday night in Owatonna.
Lageson plans to fight the proposal. “My concern is that it is such a concentration of waste and manure,” he said. “I feel like my property is being used as a dumping ground.”
About 10 years ago Lageson moved from the Twin Cities to live on the Ellendale property. In 2008, a hog feedlot was built west of his place. At the time there was public opposition to the permit, but it was granted.
On hot, humid summer days the smell becomes “unbearable,” Lageson said. Since moving to the farm, he has purchased central air conditioning in part because of the stench created by the feedlots.
Five years ago the Lagesons found out their well was contaminated by non-human E.coli bacteria. They haven’t drunk well water since and now purchase bottled water. He said a pollution control expert has testified in the past that the well contamination “could have been as a result of the feedlot operation.”
The family is also unable to hang dry laundry outside because the smell saturates the clothing. They have also been forced to replace their septic system.
“I feel like I’m on this island and there is nothing I can do,” Lageson said, noting that thousands of gallons of liquid manure is spread all around his place. “I feel like we’re so helpless and I feel like we have suffered enough,” he added.
If another feedlot is constructed near his place, Lageson is worried about even more serious environmental effects. “There is potential for a lot of damage with air pollution and ground water contamination,” he said. “We left the city to get away from pollution.”
Added Lageson’s wife, Nancy: “It’s not anti-ag, not anti-farm and not anti-animal, but why just outside of town?”
Over the years the Lagesons have poured significant money into preserving the buildings on their farm. “This is more than a piece of property to us. It’s our heritage,” he said. “We’re not city slickers that bought a small place,” he added.
Lageson said he enjoys country living, but not with all the problems created by feedlots. Ever since he was a kid, he dreamed of living on the farm. “I wanted to carry on the family tradition of living here,” he said.
“The quality of life has changed out here,” he said. “These are industrial, manure factories. They’re not farms. It’s disappointing—first the hog barns and now the turkey barns.”
Lageson said he doesn’t want to “be this ogre living in the area,” but he is prepared to protect the quality of living his family has enjoyed for generations.