From 2006 through 2009, the Wilson College Biodiesel Project (WCBP) engaged the Mid-Atlantic farming community with an interactive on-farm biodiesel education program. Beginning in the fall of 2006, the WCBP held six free workshops for 120 farmers and educators in the region surrounding Chambersburg, PA. These full day hands-on workshops included a biodiesel production manual, basic biodiesel chemistry, a slide show, and production of a 50 gallon batch of biodiesel on site. After completing the workshops, participants were invited to apply for ten mini-grants of $1500 to cover start-up costs for on-farm biodiesel plants, as well as comprehensive technical support from the staff of the WCBP. Eighteen farmers applied and ten were selected for the mini-grants by a committee of agricultural professionals. The WCBP staff supported these participant farmers throughout the design and start-up phase of their on-farm biodiesel projects.
At the time of this report, eight of the ten farmer participants have adopted biodiesel production as a regular practice on their farms, and have developed sufficient skills to be considered responsible and effective micro-scale biodiesel producers. Two farmers working with the project have lagged behind this goal but continue to work towards incorporating biodiesel into their operations. One more farmer who did not seek start-up funds, but did receive technical support from the project has fully adopted biodiesel as an on-farm practice. To date, the farmers working with the project have produced and used over 11,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel worth approximately $44,000, and have a combined installed on-farm production capacity of approximately 1700 gallons per week.
An equally important phase of this project was to research and document the best practices for safe, environmentally responsible, and legal production of biodiesel on the farm. The project coordinator worked with faculty and engineers from Penn State University and regulatory personnel from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to produce a 40 page manual titled “Biodiesel Safety and Best Management Practices for Small-Scale Noncommercial Use and Production”. This document has been accepted by biodiesel producers and educators nationwide as a landmark in legitimizing the practice of responsible small scale production.
The WCBP conducted practical research into advanced techniques for safer biodiesel production described in the manual, and publicized this work through nine outreach events over the duration of the project.
(From the original application)
Of the 70 farmers who participate in hands-on biodiesel workshops, at least 10 will adopt biodiesel fuel production as a part of their regular practice. These 10 farmers will have achieved success when they have produced at least 500 gallons of biodiesel, and have hosted a workshop on fuel production for five or more other growers.
The outcome of this project will be improvement of farm sustainability by lowering operating costs and decreasing environmental impact, as a result of reduction in fossil fuel use.
Over 120 farmers and educators attended six hands-on biodiesel production workshops. Of the ten farmers selected for start-up mini-grants and intensive technical support, eight are currently making biodiesel fuel on the farm. Five of the ten have produced at least 500 gallons of biodiesel, while three others are well on their way to achieving this goal. One participant has made some fuel and is slowly developing his project, and one participant has failed to make significant progress toward biodiesel production goals. Eight of the ten participants have successfully promoted their projects to visitors through tours and focused workshops, and two have gone on to mentor other farmers in alternative fuels production.
Improved farm sustainability will be discussed in further detail in the Impact/ Results section. Several participants report reduced net fuel costs and all producers state that they appreciate the fact that they have decreased their farms’ fossil fuel dependence.