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Century farm family diversifies to support future generations

Article cover photo
Long-time Iowa Soybean Association member Roy Bardole and his family members shared the history of his family's century farms in Greene County and their efforts to be good environmental stewards. (Bethany Baratta/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

Though the day was perfect for getting soybeans in the ground, one Greene County family took time out of the field and invited their friends, family and community members for lunch in their newly constructed pig barn.

The Bardole family has farming roots in Greene County dating back to 1901, Roy Bardole explained as he and sons Pete and Tim and grandson Schyler shared details about their farm at an open house in early June.

“As I grew up on the farm, my dad always impressed upon me to do it better,” Roy said. “As I became involved with various agriculture organizations, I became more and more certain that how I took care of the soil had a direct relationship to the quality of water leaving my farm.”

Their soybean and corn operation is currently no-till and they utilize cover crops, among other conservation efforts.

“Everything we can do to keep the soil where it is, that’s what we are going to do,” he said. “This new hog operation allows us to capture and use micronutrients, which is absolutely crucial to us.”

But the Bardoles didn’t take the decision to diversify lightly.

“You don’t do something like this without the whole family on board,” Roy said, and Schyler knew they would need to expand the operation to support his growing family.

“We looked at a lot of different options,” Schyler explained. “I did a lot of research and truly looked into everything — from crickets to buffalo.”

He left no stone unturned, but everything kept pointing back to pigs, especially since the family has experience in pork production. Plus, it financially compliments their operation, as soybeans and pigs go hand-in-hand.

Karey Claghorn, ISA COO, stressed the importance of livestock to Iowa's farm families, rural communities and state economy. (Photo: Bethany Baratta/Iowa Soybean Association)

Making sense (and cents)

As the No. 1 consumer of Iowa soybeans, it makes sense that the growth of the pork industry is a top priority for the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and its farmer members.

Iowa’s approximately 50 million hogs consumed 2.2 million tons of soybean meal in 2017, and the success of Iowa animal agriculture has a large impact on the state and regional economies through jobs, earnings and taxes. According to the United Soybean Board, during 2017 animal agriculture in Iowa contributed $24.2 billion in economic output and supported 109,822 jobs.

Plus, from 2007-2017 animal agriculture in Iowa showed substantial growth during challenging economic times, increasing economic output by almost $6.8 billion and contributing 30,705 additional jobs.

“Livestock is a great way to allow people like me to come back to the farm,” Schyler said. “Those who farm know that the last two years haven’t been overly friendly; this allowed us to diversify and helped me support my family.”

Diversification helps farmers meet challenges head-on such as recent trade disruptions, market fluctuations and adverse weather.

“This right here is one of the best examples of diversification,” said Karey Claghorn, ISA chief operating officer. “It’s a real opportunity to bring young people back to the farm, expand your farm and contribute to the community and rural development. From construction work to vet services and feed services, livestock production helps keep our rural communities vibrant.”

Schyler said that choosing Seaboard Foods allowed them to build two barns versus maybe having just one. They plan to add trees around the site to help with odor and improve aesthetics. (Photo: Bethany Baratta/Iowa Soybean Association)

Building the best barn

The Bardoles didn’t just think about the industry into which they would expand, they also put immense thought into how they would raise pigs and who they would work with. Ultimately, they landed on raising pigs for Seaboard Foods.

“The style of building and the feed-to-finish model really worked best for our operation,” Schyler said. “Financially, it pencils out a lot better than some other options.”

The family is very pleased with the modern, well thought-out barn they’ve constructed. Since the family will be sharing the labor of chores, it is a significant advantage to have most systems automated, such as temperature, which also helps them use less electricity. They also have detailed back-up plans should those systems fail.

“One of the reasons we chose this site is that it is up on a hill and it had some sand underlay,” Schyler explained. “We were able take some ground out of production that maybe didn’t produce as much and help the surrounding ground produce a little bit more. Plus, it helps mitigate odor by not allowing it to hang in low spots.”

Being on a hill also allows them to load pigs straight in and out of the barn — instead of at an angle, incline or decline — which is less stressful for the animals.

Schyler shared details about how the family will raise pigs responsibly and how much thought they put into this expansion. His father, Tim (left) is currently ISA president-elect. (Photo: Bethany Baratta/Iowa Soybean Association)

Doing things right

The family reached out to the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) to ensure they were doing everything they could to expand their farm responsibly. ISA is a founding member of this confidential and nonpartisan organization.

“We were really happy having someone specifically designated for farmers to be able to reach out and get more information,” Schyler explained. “They [CSIF staff] were always there to provide reliable information that I didn’t have to question and offered really great suggestions on how to move forward.”

Schyler noted that he made numerous calls and texts to Kent Mower, senior field coordinator for CSIF, throughout the process. CSIF provided support from initial expansion discussions, through construction, all the way up to that day’s open house.

“We’re also excited to work with CSIF to plant trees around our site,” Schyler said. Windbreaks — trees and shrubs strategically planted near buildings to block the wind — helps to keep odors from being transported off-site and keeps snow away from barns in the winter.

For the Bardole family, it all comes down to doing things better than before, which included hosting the open house for guests to ask questions and understand how they will raise pigs.

Claghorn offered a thank-you to the Bardole family at the open house on behalf of ISA.

“We have had generations of Bardoles giving of time and treasure to the Iowa Soybean Association, our national organizations and our international organizations,” Claghorn said. “I have seen both Roy and Tim advocating on behalf of agriculture in Iowa, Washington, D.C., and countries around the world. We appreciate the fact that they take time to do this work for their fellow farmers.”

Contact Lauren Houska at

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