Guest blog post by Featherstone Farm in Rushford, Minn.
We here at Featherstone Farm are excited for another harvest of fresh fruits and veggies for Mississippi Market and other area co-ops. Of course, like every year, we’ve been seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding, and we’re filled with the satisfaction of feeding families around Minnesota. But this year is a little different – it’s the first season in which 60% of our farm’s energy is produced directly from the sun.
Back in 2007, after the flood nearly wiped Featherstone off the map, Farmer Jack Hedin began thinking more seriously about sustainability. When ruinous rains returned in 2010, he decided it was time to act.
An early audit of our farm’s energy needs, completed in March of 2011, suggested an almost perfect correlation between our seasonal electrical usage and solar energy availability: both grow steadily throughout the spring, peak in summer, and decrease again in autumn. According to Jack, this correlation makes solar energy a “silver bullet” solution to the farm’s energy needs.
With financial support from our friends, CSA members, Twin Cities co-ops, Whole Foods, and federal grants and loans, we were able to raise enough money to fund the $400,000 project, which also included the addition of a new, large cooler.
Construction began in early September 2011 and continued through the harvest season.
Featherstone was already buzzing with harvest activity, so adding construction workers, electricians, solar installers, refrigeration installers, and insulation applicators into the mix transformed the farm into a (slightly chaotic) zoo. When the dust settled, however, Featherstone Farm was left with a truly forward-thinking renewable energy system: a 2,200 square foot, 38 kilowatt solar panel array that now sits on the roof of our machine shop in Rushford and produces the majority of the energy that fuels our farm’s day-to-day activities.
As organic farmers, we possess a strong ethic of environmental stewardship, but it can oftentimes be difficult to act out those ideals. Our solar energy project is a practical, long-term reflection of our commitment to a clean, sustainable future. However, we must acknowledge that we wouldn’t be here without an outpouring of support from those around us. As Jack says:
“Thanks so much to all our friends and customers who helped us pull this off. We are so fortunate at Featherstone Farm to be surrounded by a community which makes ‘pipe dreams’ like farm solar power into a reality.”