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Families clash over proposed hog farm in Zumbrota Township

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Dale Post, a retired farmer from Zumbrota Township, speaks at an event
Dale Post, a retired farmer from Zumbrota Township, spoke at a news conference on Thursday to oppose a hog facility near where he lives.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

A family proposing a large hog operation near Zumbrota Township on Thursday showed up at a press conference held by neighbors who oppose the facility. 

Backed by the Land Stewardship Project, Zumbrota Township retired farmer Dale Post and about a dozen others held signs such as "No Factory Farms" and "Family Farms NOT Factory Farms" as they spoke in a downtown Lakeville park about their concerns about odors and hydrogen sulfide gas, which results from animal waste and can be harmful to health at certain levels. 

"We've been there for seven generations, ever since my great grandparents immigrated there from Germany in 1883 looking for a better quality of life, which we've all enjoyed up until now. But now it could be in jeopardy with this proposal," Post said.

Mike Kohlnhofer of Circle K Farms is proposing the project. Kohlnhofer and his brothers operate several other hog facilities in southern Minnesota. 

Beth Kohlnhofer Raskovich stands by her insurance agency in Lakeville
Beth Kohlnhofer Raskovich stands in front of her insurance agency in Lakeville after organizing a counter protest on Thursday.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

Toward the end of the press conference, when the Land Stewardship group was getting ready to deliver a copy of their report about hydrogen sulfide levels to the Lakeville insurance agency that bears the Kohlnhofer name, several members of the Kohlnhofer family showed up with their own signs. 

"If you don't want farms by you, stay in the city!" and "I eat meat," read a couple of them. 

Beth Kohlnhofer Raskovich, the Kohlnhofers' sister who owns the insurance agency in Lakeville, organized the counter protest. 

"My brothers bought this farm from nothing and worked their tails off," she said, adding that the project has met environmental requirements. "When it's zoned agricultural, you're going to have farms."

The confrontation highlighted the conflicts that sometimes arise between Minnesotans who contribute to a large-scale, global food system and those who support a smaller-scale, local food system

The project in Zumbrota Township will house up to 4,700 finishing pigs, according to project documents finalized earlier this year by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

But the project is on hold because a group of citizens challenged Goodhue County's approval of it. The Minnesota Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments on that case next week.

On Monday, the Land Stewardship Project presented a report from a citizen air monitoring effort that organizers hope will prompt state regulators to begin continuous air monitoring at the Kohlnhofers' existing hog facilities.