Thursday, July 18, 2024

Farm and fiber mill in Troy enters first summer time operating on renewable power

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TROY — Some individuals sit up for Independence Day as the beginning of extra leisurely summer time days, trip time, mountain climbing, and perhaps seaside time. Many Maine farmers, in the meantime, are heading into their leanest season with lengthy work days forward. At Moorit Hill Farm and Fiber within the city of Troy in Central Maine, this July will even deliver lengthy days of power manufacturing. Earlier this yr the farmers added a 41-kW rooftop photo voltaic array, paid for partly by a Rural Energy for America Program grant. The grant was awarded by USDA Rural Development, whose Maine State Director, Rhiannon Hampson, toured the farm and fiber mill Wednesday, July 3.

“As we have fun this vacation weekend, it is very important acknowledge the arduous work round us within the agricultural sector,” Director Hampson stated whereas visiting the farm. “Whether you are craving strawberries and cream, fried rooster, a burger on the grill, or a chilly brew this weekend, Maine farmers put in hours day by day to supply us with native choices. So grateful I thank the numerous farmers like Elizabeth and Josh of Moorit Hill who go the additional mile as stewards of the clear air, soil, and water that make Maine so particular. Their merchandise not solely make us comfortable festivals, however their work helps preserve Maine’s lands and heritage for generations to return.

Josh Emerman and Elizabeth Goundie increase Icelandic sheep for meat and fiber at Moorit Hill Farm, which they established in 2017 (They additionally provide sheep as breeding inventory). At first, they took their wool to be processed on the former Aroostook Fiberworks, and when the Ashland producer closed, they purchased the milling gear. They started providing customized fiber processing on-site in Troy in early 2023 and have been enhancing their milling work ever since.

The couple additionally elevated the manufacturing of meat and wool, with their herd now numbering over seventy. There is powerful demand for domestically raised sheep, and the mill is busy processing wool from farms all through Maine and past. However, it may be tough to handle farm bills and make a revenue, particularly in a labor-intensive, power-driven enterprise like a mill. Add in quickly rising electrical energy costs, and all of the sudden margins are shrinking.

Goundie and Emerman turned to the advisors of the Small Business Association and Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (a Community Development Financial Institution) to develop a marketing strategy to make sure that the farm stays sustainable. Switching to photo voltaic power provides a possibility to economize on their power payments whereas additionally offsetting the carbon footprint of the gear they run on the mill. The math provides up – if they’ll discover a strategy to scale back the price of the venture. With the assistance of their photo voltaic installer (SolarLogix in Belfast), they submitted a profitable utility for a USDA REAP grant that coated about half of the venture’s price.

Now photo voltaic panels cowl most of 1 aspect of the sheep barn, producing almost the quantity of power wanted to energy 4.5 common houses. The venture was accomplished solely 5 months in the past, so farmers are wanting ahead to their first summer time of peak photo voltaic era. “When we opened our fiber mill, we knew we needed to do one thing in regards to the excessive power use,” stated farm co-owner Josh Emerman. “We pursued solar energy to assist stability this use and align our values ​​with our enterprise. Today we function our farm and mill completely utilizing photo voltaic power.

Shelley Megquier, Policy & Research Director of the Maine Farmland Trust, says farm manufacturing prices have elevated 24% over the previous 5 years, whilst farms face back-to-back years of drought. and an excessive amount of rain. “Renewable power choices will help scale back farm prices and carbon emissions, however monetary boundaries are sometimes excessive for farms already dealing with tough financial situations, ” stated Megquier. “Through the REAP program, we have seen Maine farm companies bounce on the alternative of a value phase that permits them to cut back their farm power prices by putting in power environment friendly heating. and rooftop photo voltaic arrays whereas decreasing their carbon footprint.”

“Sometimes I joke that folks ought to thank a farmer on the Fourth of July as a result of lots of the Minutemen who fought for American freedom have been farmers with pitchforks,” stated Director Hampson. “But in actual fact, we owe because of farmers and meals producers day by day for his or her continuous work. The pandemic has made us all extra conscious of how essential it’s to make sure the range of the native USDA applications like REAP assist meals producers keep economically productive.

Moorit Hill Farm and Fiber primarily sells these merchandise on the Blue Hill Farmers’ Market, in addition to at particular occasions such because the Maine Fiber Frolic. (The farmers plan to promote their yarns sooner or later and are presently in search of potential retail companions.) Look for them with quite a lot of yarns, hand-knit hats, sheepskin, and lamb lower on the market from Sep 11:30 each Saturday till October. Goundie says the farm has a rising following amongst gourmands who search out Icelandic lamb for its delicate taste. To assist devotees refill, they’re taking orders now (on-line or on the market) for your entire lamb part able to be taken to the farm in October.

About REAP

The Department expects to make extra awards within the coming months. The subsequent deadline for REAP purposes is September 30, 2024. For extra details about utility deadlines and submission particulars, see the REAP Program Fact Sheet or contact Katrina Shaw, USDA Rural Development Maine State Energy Coordinator (e-mail [email protected] or name 207-990-9129).



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