Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources
If you have been following this blog, you are already aware that the Patrick-Murray Administration has set ambitious renewable energy and efficiency goals for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If you are a farmer, you may want to know where you can find more information about and assistance for becoming more energy efficient and/or producing renewable energy as part of your farm business.
The Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) is the one-stop shop for Massachusetts farmers who are looking to take on their own project. MFEP is a joint project of Berkshire-Pioneer Resource Conservation and Development Area RC&D and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR). The project was developed with prior support from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Recently, the MFEP released a set of five best energy management manuals, one for each of the major farming sectors: dairy, greenhouses, maple, orchards and vegetable farms, and a fifth for renewable energy systems.
MFEP has worked with over 300 farmers since the project was initiated in 2008, and assisted in leveraging $4,200,000 for farm energy projects implementation, resulting in over 110 projects completed on 70 farms. In total, these projects save farmers $740,000 annually – an average of $10,500 per farm – through the reduction of energy use or replacement with renewable energy, and reduced carbon emissions from the Massachusetts agricultural sector by approximately 9,000 tons annually.
These Massachusetts Farm Energy Best Management Practices Guides include equipment specifications, costs and payback periods, and renewable energy technologies. They will help farmers identify opportunities, estimate financial savings, and find technical and funding resources to reduce energy use, minimize carbon emissions, and improve farm viability. As more information becomes available, the hope is to expand the guides for other farming sectors.
To celebrate the release of these guides, a networking event was held last fall at Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst. It linked farmers with energy experts and resources, including state and federal agencies, installers, vendors, and public utilities, to initiate on-farm energy projects. A similar event is being planned for the southeast Massachusetts area this year.
As more farms implement practices such as in those found in the Best Management Guides and utilize some of the energy incentives available for implementation, not only will farmers save considerable amounts of money, they will also reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions throughout the state. This will be a welcome contribution to the Commonwealth’s goals and the sustainability of agricultural in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Farm Energy Best Management Practices Guides are available here and at the DAR’s Energy Program website. For more information on the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, visit www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep and for more information on the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, visit www.mass.gov/agr.