Five Berkshire County farms have secured state grants that will help them preserve the environment and run their operations more efficiently.
The farms will share more than $65,000 in grants from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. EEA officials say the funding will help in projects that include better control of water runoff at Broadlawn Farm in Adams and the installation of a solar array at Leab family-owned Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock.
PHOTO GALLERY | Broadlawn Farm in Adams receives state environmental grant
"Our project is as much about energy stability as it is about keeping costs down -- and it's good for the environment," said Rob Leab.
The three other farms are Mill Brook Sugarhouse in Lenox, Maple Shade Farm in Sheffield and Susan B. Anthony Farm in Adams.
The five local farms are among the 56 across Massachusetts awarded a total of $700,000 in state grants this week. The Department of Agricultural Resources is funding the grants through two different DAR programs aimed at reducing energy consumption, increasing renewable energy use and improving agricultural practices at farms across the state.
"We are proud to support our local farmers in their efforts to ensure a sustainable future for their farms," EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan said in prepared remarks. "With each grant, we are creating opportunity for agriculture to stay rooted and grow in our communities."
The Leab family says the state grant of $16,916, coupled with a $17,000 federal grant and private financing, will cover the estimated $100,000 cost to install the solar array in a cow pasture and to upgrade the farm's electrical systems.
The solar panels should produce 15 kilowatts, or 25 percent, of the electricity consumed annually by the farm's six buildings. The Leabs expect the solar energy system to be operational in a year from now, completing the multi-faceted farm's latest effort to be more eco-friendly.
"We hope to keep moving toward other alternate energy sources," noted Melissa Leab, Rob's wife.
"We've already have an energy-efficient sugarhouse and have converted to biodegradable tableware in our cafe."
At the Mill Brook Sugarhouse, owner Bill Markham will use his $10,500 grant toward a $30,000 to $34,000 upgrade of his maple syrup production in time for next season. Markham plans to purchase a reverse osmosis machine that separates 75 percent of the water from the sugar in the maple tree sap, prior to the more traditional evaporation process.
"This will cut the amount of time and energy to evaporate the water," he said. "I've wanted to do this for years.
Markham also expects to reduce by 75 percent his fuel oil bill of $2,000 for the sugarhouse, savings he plans to invest in expanding his maple syrup production by doubling or tripling the number of taps.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.
Funding Berkshire farms ...
Five local farms below have received state grants toward energy-efficiency projects and improving agricultural practices.
Farm Award Project description
Broadlawn Farm, Adams $25,000 Water runoff management
Ioka Valley Farm, Hancock $16,916 15kw photovoltaic system
Mill Brook Sugarhouse, Lenox $10,500 Reverse osmosis machine/maple syrup production
Susan B. Anthony Farm, Adams $10,000 Alternate water source/new well
Maple Shade Farm, Sheffield $3,209 Variable speed pump for milking dairy cows