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Crabapple Farm, Kinne Brook Farm among area farms to get sustainable energy grants

Farmers around the Pioneer Valley will be reducing their energy consumption and relying more on renewable energy soon as a result of state grants announced Tuesday.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources awarded 27 Agricultural Energy Grants totaling $325,000 for farmers across the state to install solar arrays or energy-efficient equipment in greenhouses, sugar houses or dairy barns.

Tevis Robertson-Goldberg, co-owner of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, said the $12,000 grant his operation received means realizing a long-term goal to be more sustainable.

“We’ve been looking into sustainable energy for a while, and photovoltaic seems to make the most sense,” he said Tuesday.

When it is installed sometime this fall, a 6.7-kilowatt solar array will cover a 30-by-10-foot section of a barn roof, he said.

“It’s going to mean a pretty big reduction in the amount of energy we’ll use,” he said. “We scaled it to essentially meet our energy needs, or close to it.”

The farm currently uses a significant amount of electricity to power walk-in coolers for produce, freezers for storing meat, and to sometimes to heat a greenhouse used to start seedlings, he said.

Crabapple Farm, operating since 2003, sells produce and meat through community supported agriculture shares and at local farmers markets.

Robertson-Goldberg said farmers have a special interest in supporting sustainability.

“Part of what got me started in farming originally was trying to create more sustainable systems,” he said. “Farmers can have a big impact on the environment, for good or for bad, and we’d like our impact to be good.”

Kinne Brook Farm in Worthington will also be installing a 10.56-kilowatt solar array on a barn roof since with a $10,000 energy grant.

“We’re quite thrilled,” said Bart Niswonger, co-owner of the farm, which produces grass-fed beef. “Our farm grows grass with help from the sun, so this is another way to use the sun for power.”

The array will generate almost all of the energy needed to run the farm, Niswonger said, including power for freezers and a vacuum pump used to collect sap for maple sugaring.

Since its inception in 2009, the Agricultural Energy Grant Program has provided more than $1.6 million to fund 120 projects at farms across the state.

“This program is key in helping farmers adopt cleaner energy practices and reduce energy consumption all across Massachusetts, keeping them sustainable and in step with the Commonwealth’s long-term energy goals,” said Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources.

Other recipients in the area include Warner Farm in Sunderland, which received $17,500 for a 9.8-kilowatt photovoltaic system and a walk-in cooler, and Szawlowski Potato Farms in Hatfield, which got a grant for $12,500 to add more cold storage.

Grants to make maple sugaring process more energy efficient went to the following operations: Just-A-Mere Tree Farm in Worthington, $7,500 for a reverse osmosis machine; Potwine Neighborhood Farm in Amherst, $3,000 for a heat recovery system; Long Plain Farm in Whately, $15,000 for an outdoor wood boiler; and Williams Farm in Deerfield, $12,500 for a steam hood and natural gas coverter.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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