By Kevin Pink, Customer Service & Marketing Assistant
It’s getting to be that time of year; across New England, farmer’s markets are in full swing and abundant harvests of cucumbers, tomatoes, and all manner of other summer crops are making their way from farms to our tables along with milk, cheese, and meat. With harvest festivals just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about the farms that produce the foods that keep us nourished.
At the Center for EcoTechnology, we’ve been working with farms for decades. Farms have a lot of the same energy needs as other businesses we work with, and in many cases, they have additional needs. In the 1990s, we began working with farmers to implement food waste composting on farms and augment it to accept commercially-generated food scraps, offering farms an additional option for revenue. We later expanded our work with farms to include helping to increase the energy efficiency of their facilities and processes.
Beginning in 2002, CET managed the Energy and Small Farm Sustainability Project, funded by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant from the USDA and matching funds from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the United States Department of Energy. This project researched, implemented, and showcased energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects for farms in Western Massachusetts, offering free technical assistance and recommendations for next steps. CET staff also helped farmers research and secure grant funding, financing, and utility and tax incentives to install energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems.
In 2014, we partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to manage the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) and more recently have received additional support from the USDA (Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service) to expand MFEP services. MFEP helps to implement energy-conserving solutions and renewable energy projects with the goals of reducing operating costs, emissions, and dependence on fossil fuels. Through MFEP, farmers receive technical resources and referrals, audits and consultations, financial incentives and funding facilitation. This assistance allows them to upgrade things like lighting, heating, and refrigeration systems, as well as installing renewable energy like solar electricity and hot water and anaerobic digestion. These upgrades and installations are making a significant impact.
Since 2014 CET has:
- Worked with 478 farms to complete 45 projects
- Diverted 752 tons of carbon from the atmosphere
- Granted $47,492.00 in incentives
- Helped 40 farms get preliminary audits (which is the first step toward larger grant funding)
- Helped farms receive a total of $371,606.57 in utility incentives, rebates, and grant programs
In the process, MFEP has helped farms reduce their consumption of:
- wood by 12.75 cords
- propane by 416 gallons
- oil by 1,707.4 gallons
- natural gas by 33,694 therms
- electricity by 667,608.3 kWh
The Center for EcoTechnology has had a successful history working with farmers in Massachusetts. Synergies between lowering utility costs by being more energy efficient and reducing carbon emissions also result in lower operating costs for farmers, which improves the farms’ viability. Viable farms are able to produce the food we love at lower costs, helping to ensure that affordable, nutritious food is available throughout New England. We look forward to continuing to work with farmers to help them conserve energy, implement renewable energy systems, and reduce their carbon emissions for many years to come.
Are you a farmer? Do you know a farmer that would like to use less energy or implement a renewable energy system? Contact the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program at 413-727-3090 or firstname.lastname@example.org!