Farming has always been the legacy of the Jim Dale family. The family’s swine operation spans through generations, making it only natural for his sons, Shane and Jeff, to follow in their father’s footsteps. Taking a leap of faith, they decided to step out on their own into new technology to grow their father’s business. Growth meant building. Building meant equipment, manpower, materials, and, most importantly, time. The family and a team of builders went to work in the late fall of 2016, after preparation and planning of more than a year, and by February 2017, the Dales had laid a strong foundation for both new buildings.
That February day, a dozen trucks and vans filled the makeshift parking lot. The scene was dominated by towering rolls of corrugated tubing, and a long, white building, evenly spaced with state of the art fans and few entrances. It was the first tour given by the Dale family of their new buildings. They had a vision of a technologically connected operation that is more efficient, has better air quality, and streamlined procedures…and it’s a vision they soon realized as the buildings became operational this spring.
Jim Dale approached the group, and introductions and handshaking commenced. Being in the swine industry all his life, it was a meeting with individuals and businesses he had come to call friends. Jim speaks about the project with pride, for both his sons and future generations. In a farm family, the business belongs to the family—the name on the paperwork is important for tax accountants and bankers.
The tour was of the first building belonging to his eldest son, Shane. A few hundred feet to the south, the foundation and slats for the second building belonging to Jeff, the youngest son, sat waiting and ready. The tour group was also joined by officer’s representing the state FSA department. First Farmers is primarily a farmer’s bank, so working with the state’s FSA officers comes with the territory. Everyone was on a first name basis, displaying friendships and comradery formed by years of working together.
After a quick tour of the outside, the group headed into the first building, still under construction. Jim and Jeff conducted the tour beginning with the nursery rooms for the young piglets continuing down the long hallway to the finishing rooms. The number of pigs in each room is smaller than in a standard building. The Dales explained how the slatted floors and air induction system kept the pigs happier, by producing a constant environment of fresher, cleaner air. The building's construction and airflow system limits the ability of disease to spread between rooms by being designed to recirculate the same air within the room. The ever growing role of technology was on display as Jeff described the computer network that monitored the rooms.
Jim Dale shows stall walls to Jeff Rodibaugh, VP Sr. Ag Lender, First Farmers Bank & Trust.
The group then moved into the unfinished area of the building, where the overhead beams were still exposed. It’s the height and breadth of the overhead that allows the fans and air channels to operate so efficiently, and it’s this attention to air quality that sets the Dale buildings apart.
After leaving the warmth of Shane’s building, the group made the brief walk over to Jeff’s foundation as it laid awaiting construction. This building would be the mirror image of his brother’s, though the family expects it to go up quicker, experience being the best teacher. The entire tour took a couple of hours, but within those few hours, you could see the days, weeks, and months that had went into the planning, design, and ideas of each building before one sheet of slats was ever purchased.
Time passes quickly, and Shane’s building was nearing completion. The Dale buildings, now established as Cinder Trail Farms, Inc., next order of business was to host an open house. The companies the Dales had worked closely with, Airworks, Chore-Time, Fancom, Impact Solutions, and Standard Nutrition Company, sponsored the event, inviting the local community and various swine company affiliates in for tours. Each company proved to be a valuable asset utilized by the Dale family to bring these buildings to the forefront of technology, swine health, and air quality.
The people from First Farmers Bank & Trust and the FSA were once again in attendance, and all of the advances in swine handling were on display. And while these advances in technology, air quality, and construction all spoke to the steady and unstoppable passage of time, nothing really symbolized it as well as Jeff’s building, now taking shape against a blue March sky.
The family planned to begin moving swine in within the next month. After so much hard work to get the buildings finished, the Dale’s actual work would soon begin.
It was a privilege to work with the Jim Dale family during this process. It reminded the team at First Farmers why we’re in the agriculture business. It’s because we’re dedicated to the same mission as the farmers themselves, committed to preserving the values and traditions of the family farm, providing safe and humane handling to their livestock, and looking towards a future of agriculture that is assisted by technology, but grounded in human perseverance.