(MISSION HILL, SD) - Every year, the South Dakota Pork Producers give out awards to farmers who show they go above and beyond in the ag industry. Ray Epp is this year's Environmental Stewardship Award winner.
Ray raises hogs in Mission Hill, SD along with growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa. We talked to Ray nearly two years ago. Now, he told us how things have changed now with an honor like this under his belt.
Ray Epp calls his pigs his passion. He's been watching over hogs for 16 years and now he's being recognized for his hard work.
"It was totally unexpected. I didn't, it's kind of humbling for one thing to know people are watching what you're doing and so that should be an incentive to do an even more, to do a better job," said Ray Epp of Ray and Pam Epp Farm.
You could see that motivation as he thoroughly checked his barn one feeder after another.
"I feel I'm a custodian. My job is to take care of these animals and that's exactly what I do. I don't own these per say because they come into this facility and they leave for human consumption. High protein is pork," said Epp.
The award isn't just about the way that Ray operates his farm on the inside, but on the outside, too.
"Most of the grains are fed back into the animals and then we talk about the manure there again. So it's a complete cycle we run. And all these different aspects are used in the evaluation of the steward," explained Epp.
"This is the older of the two barns. This barn was built in 1978 and at that time what it was called was a natural air flow," said Epp as he showed us his second barn.
The floor is made up of two-thirds concrete and only one quarter slat, but Epp's been able to make it work, proving this environmental award suits him perfectly.
"When people respond that you're providing them a healthy source, a tasty source that gives me incentive to keep doing my job better. Feedback, it's feedback....especially when it's a pork chop!" said Epp, with a smile.