For Immediate Release - August 18, 2011

State Agriculture and Energy Officials Tour Green Energy Farms to Promote Renewable Energy Projects

Click here for photographs from the event

ORANGE - August, 18 2011 - Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares today highlighted the cost savings and other benefits of farm-based renewable energy projects, touring three farms in South Deerfield, Orange and Phillipston.

"These farms demonstrate how using clean, renewable energy is not only good for the environment, but also helps to reduce long-term operating costs while contributing to the local economy," said Secretary Sullivan. "The Patrick-Murray Administration looks forward to continuing its work with Massachusetts farmers to safeguard and enhance the state's agricultural industry."

Starting at the University of Massachusetts Agronomy Lab in South Deerfield, today's tour included a visit to Seeds of Solidarity in Orange, and concluded at the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

The Agronomy Lab has a long history of researching ways to support and improve sustainable agriculture in the Commonwealth. The 358-acre agronomy lab and vegetable farm conducts research and offers training programs led by a team of faculty, technicians, field staff, and graduate and undergraduate students.

Over the last four years, the lab has focused on a series of biofuel crop trials, including cellulosic feedstocks such as crambe, and switchgrass. These efforts are sponsored, through technical assistance and grants, by EEA, DAR, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).

The farm has just completed a project where solar panels have been mounted on field racking designed to allow room underneath and adequate sunlight penetration for animal grazing and the raising of crops.

On the second stop, the group visited Orange's Seeds of Solidarity, a Community Supported Agricultural operation that just completed the installation of a new photovoltaic refrigeration system integrated into its new farm stand. This system will help extend the shelf life of the farm's daily produce and complements other energy conserving features at the farm. The farm, its irrigation system and its residential building are all powered by solar thermal and photovoltaic systems.

The no-till farming methods employed at Seeds of Solidarity have resulted in intensive and abundant market gardens and hoop houses, which extend the growing season and protect against climate extremes. Seeds of Solidarity received an incentive grant from the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP), a joint collaboration program of DAR, Berkshire-Pioneer's Resource Conservation & Development Area and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"An operation that can sustain itself completely off the grid may seem like a far off dream to some but there is already great potential for farms to adopt technologies today that will make them more sustainable, more efficient and less costly to operate," said Commissioner Soares.

The final destination on the tour was Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, 67-acre fruit and vegetable farm.

Red Apple was one of the first farms enrolled in DAR's Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, which helps farms improve their operations through energy efficiency and renewable energy. In 2008, the owners installed a 15-kilowatt wind turbine, which generated enough energy to serve approximately 40 to 50 percent of the farm's power needs that year.

A second clean energy project was just completed with the installation of a 9.84 kilowatt solar unit. With the output of this system in combination with the already existing wind turbine, Red Apple is now close to generating 100 percent of the energy needed to run the farm. The completion of this project has been a collaborative effort between USDA, MFEP, MassCEC and DAR.

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish