With a backdrop of bright fall sunshine streaming down upon acres and acres of ripened and ready to harvest cranberries, Bill and Nancy Couto’s Cranberry Farm in East Taunton provided the perfect setting to announce the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Divisions’ (MDAR) FY2014 Agricultural Energy (Ag-Energy) and Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP) Grant awards. These two programs awarded 56 Massachusetts farms across the state $700,000 for their efforts to implement projects to enable their agricultural operations to become more energy and environmentally sustainable.
The Couto’s, host for the on September 24, 2013 event, received an Ag-Energy Grant of $25,000 toward installing their proposed 51 kW roof-mounted solar electric (photovoltaic or “PV”) system to help offset almost all of their annual electric needs ─ mostly pumping ─ for their cranberry operation. Collaboration with the Taunton Municipal Light Plant, a municipal utility, was significant to this project’s feasibility. In fact, the relationship between the private and public sectors was the underlying story of success for the implementation of all the awarded projects.
Twenty-three grants from MDAR’s Agricultural Energy (Ag-Energy) Grant Program will fund projects to reduce energy consumption and increase renewable energy use at Massachusetts farms. The projects include photovoltaic systems for vegetable, bog and orchard operations; a geothermal system for a new vegetable packing and storage facility; a variable speed vacuum pump for a dairy operation; reverse osmosis equipment; new evaporators for maple syrup operations; and automatic temperature/ventilation controls and thermal screens for greenhouses.
Thirty-three grants from the Department of Agricultural Resources’ Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP) will fund projects that will mitigate or prevent negative impacts to natural resources, and conserve water and improve water quality that may result from agricultural practices. These projects include automated irrigations systems for cranberry operations, milkhouse wastewater treatment for dairies, manure storage areas, grazing fencing and pesticide storage.
Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan presided over the event along with MDAR Commissioner Greg Watson, both of whom emphasized how all these awarded projects will contribute to Governor Patrick’s state energy and environmental goals. Presentations were also made by Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye, Senator Marc R. Pacheco, the Senate Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Executive Director Paul Kindinger, TMLP General Manager Mike Horrigan, USDA representatives Anne Correia and Terron Hillsman, and cranberry consultant Iain Ward.
The event culminated with an informative walk and talk tour of the Couto cranberry bogs.
To find out more about the grant projects, please visit MDAR’s website.