CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The Iowa Farm Energy Working Group (FEWG) has awarded $4,000 in demonstration grants to two Iowa farmers to demonstrate how they will meet their energy needs through energy efficiency or the use of renewable energy sources on their farms.
The University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE) facilitates the working group with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The working group is funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
"Two Iowa farmers with small to mid-sized operations will receive grants to investigate options that we hope other farmers will want to learn about," said Carole Yates, working group coordinator and CEEE program manager. This is the working group's third round of demonstration grants.
Harn Soper of Emmetsburg and a consultant will design, build and monitor a second-generation prototype 500-gallon biogas generator at Soper Farm to determine the feasibility of larger production levels. This 100 percent-sustainable energy system will convert farm waste (primarily cattle manure) into usable compost for plant fertilizer. It will also recover biogas energy, which will be used to heat water to warm the floor of a farm greenhouse. The goal is accomplish these two objectives in a cost effective manner that other farms could replicate.
Soper Farm is a 1,000-acre operation transitioning from conventional farming of corn and soybeans to an organic operation, according to Soper's proposal.
Rob and Tammy Faux, owners of Genuine Faux Farm near Tripoli, want to reduce their farm's reliance on fossil fuels by using renewable energy if possible. To find out if renewable energy is the best choice for their 14-acre diversified vegetable/chicken/turkey/duck farm, they will hire a solar site assessor to research their farms' current and projected future energy needs.
"We hope the answer is yes," says Rob Faux, "because we would like to install a photovoltaic solar array to provide electricity for a building housing a walk-in cooler, another array to provide supplemental heat for chicks and hens in the winter and light for a lean-to greenhouse where we'll start seeds in early spring. But we understand the first step is to get the site assessment done."
Most farmers who have received Farm Energy Working Group mini-grants show their results through presentations to the group, a field day, or provide information for a farmer success story on the FEWG web site, www.ceee.uni.edu/farmenergy.aspx