Earlier this summer, I traveled to Western Massachusetts with Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, state legislators, and representatives from the US Department of Agriculture, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), and our Massachusetts Farm Enhancement Program to see what farms are doing to adopt renewable energy and implement energy efficiency measures that will cut agricultural operating costs and decrease energy use.
First stop, Red Fire Farm in Granby. Ryan and Sarah Voilland’s certified organic farm is the largest Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) operation in the Northeast. CSAs allow customers to buy shares of seasonal crops on a weekly basis. They recently received a DAR Agricultural Energy Grant to install a photovoltaic system, which will provide for 30 to35 percent of the farm’s annual energy needs. Throughout the project, Red Fire Farm used local businesses that assisted with the supporting structures and inverters for the system.
Second stop, Winter Moon Farm in Hadley. This farm is owned and operated by Michael Docter. Part of the organic farm is rented to the CSA Next Farm Over, which has over 400 members and also grows organic produce. Winter Moon built two green energy projects completed with state and federal assistance.
- Project 1 – Cold Storage: Winter Moon worked with DAR’s Farm Energy Program to understand options for providing cold storage in a recently-purchased former tobacco barn, all with the intention of extending its “buy local” season. The cold storage facility provides winter-long storage of local carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas that are intentionally grown in extra quantities for sale to local markets. The new cooling system maintains a consistent temperature of 34 degrees and near 100 percent humidity. DAR helped fund the project design through the Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program.
- Project 2 – PV: The farm also sought to furnish its south-facing barn roof with solar PV panels. Built by local contractors, the system generates over 35,000 kWh annually and provides all the electricity needs of the farm’s current operation. The PV project received funding support from DAR’s Agricultural Energy Grant and the USDA.
Third Stop, the Mapleline Dairy in Hadley. Mapleline is a family-operated dairy and milk bottling facility owned by the Kokoski family. In addition to 190 dairy cattle, the farm grows crops including corn, alfalfa and hay. Mapleline’s latest green energy project is a roof-mounted PV system on its dairy barn, which is expected to offset approximately one-third off the farm’s milking operation energy needs. The project was a collaborative effort between DAR and MassCEC.
In the end, we all enjoyed a great day of camaraderie, a local lunch at Cook Farm (ending with fresh raspberry ice cream), and great discussions about clean and renewable energy at each stop along the way. We recognized how important it is to have a collaborative approach to make renewable and energy efficiency projects like these succeed. We’re lucky to have such a bountiful and innovative agricultural industry here in Massachusetts. Go local, go green.