Smart Energy Management in Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $68,208.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Karyn Wolf Lynn
Ecological Farming Association

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance
  • Sustainable Communities: social networks, sustainability measures


    The Ecological Farming Association has implemented a two-year training program aimed at improving energy management on California farms, vineyards, and ranches. “Smart Energy Management in Agriculture” provides growers with skills and resources to decrease fossil fuel use through energy conservation and renewable energy applications. Using our proven program model, participants connect with technical experts and producer peers in both classroom and hands-on settings and engage with a statewide network of producers, local government representatives, non-profit organizations, and industry representatives in order to effect maximum impact. All four California trainings have been completed: Healdsburg (North Coast); Pacific Grove (Central Coast); Livingston (San Joaquin Valley); Winters (Sacramento Valley).

    Project objectives:

    • Objective One (over the course of four or more trainings, 125 California farmers will incorporate renewable energy technologies and energy conservation in their operations)

      245 people participated in the four workshops. 49% of these were farmers, for a total of 120 farmers. Additional participants include those that attended renewable energy workshops held at the 2007 Ecological Farming Conference.

      A total of 87% planned on using what they learned in the workshop within one year (213 participants).

      Post-training evaluations demonstrate:

      Healdsburg: 89% indicated they would implement what they had learned in the upcoming 6-12 months, including undertaking energy audits, installing solar thermal, PV, and boosters, educating peers and management, writing, and implementing usage of biofuels.

      Pacific Grove: 85% indicated they would implement what they had learned in the upcoming 6-12 months.

      Livingston: 81% indicated they would implement what they had learned in the upcoming 6-12 months.

      Winters: 84% indicated they would implement what they had learned in the upcoming 6-12 months.

      The final follow-up survey to all participants showed:

      80% of the respondents were farmers or ranchers, the others were from farm and garden related businesses.

      60% of the respondents had installed an alternative energy project or energy efficiency measures. Most applications were solar, with some efficiency measures taken in lighting.

      100% that had installed were satisfied with their experience.

      Reasons for not installing included:
      Not enough time
      Need better understanding of rebate program

      Major barriers to installation included:
      Education/lack of expertise
      Limited time to explore and implement new technologies
      Distance from providers (rural areas), difficult environment
      Lack of understanding of payback system and tax incentives
      Finding and selecting a contractor
      Lack of resources and information for: design, sourcing hardware, installation, maintenance after installation, information about repair costs.

      Requests for further training included:
      Organic farming conversion
      Solar panel updates
      Continued education about advancements

      Objective Two (the project coordinator will work with producer advisors and other project supporters to create four regional planning committees, which will develop training curriculum):

      Five committees have been convened: an initial committee of 21 people developed the core curriculum and the regional focus topics for the first event, which was implemented at the North Coast training in March 2006. Regional committees adapted the curriculum and presenters for subsequent trainings: 8 for Pacific Grove, 15 for Livingston (including 9 farmers), and 11 for Winters (including 3 farmers).

      Objective Three (two trainings per year in California’s four most productive agricultural regions and additional outreach and workshop development at the Ecological Farming Conference):

      The first of four trainings (North Coast) was completed March 2006. The Central Coast training, originally planned for fall 2006, was postponed to coincide with our organization’s annual Ecological Farming Conference in January 2007. The two Central Valley trainings were held in July and November 2007.

      The curriculum was similar at all trainings. The workshop portion of the day included general information, approaches, and resources for understanding and evaluating energy use. Each also included specific presentations tailored for the region. The group took extended tours of farms in the region that incorporated some type of renewable energy. Each attendee received a handbook to bring back with them.

      In addition to this first training, the Ecological Farming Conference in January 2007 took an energy theme, “Farm Power: Growing It Organically,” and included a special energy track reaching at least 500 attendees that covered Energy Efficiency, Biofuels Through the Eyes of Agricultural Sustainability, Solar: The Perfect Storm of Economic and Environmental Sustainability, How Many Miles to Go Before You Eat, and a plenary session with Richard Heinberg on peak oil.

      Objective Four (compile a renewable energy handbook for distribution to 400 producers): In advance of the first training, a substantive handbook of 150 pages (later expanded to 200 pages) was developed to complement the training curriculum and to provide additional information and resources for producers. Over 250 handbooks have been distributed, at least 125 to producers. Key components of the handbook are available on the Ecological Farming Association’s website at: Additional updated handbooks were available at the Eco-Farm Conference in January 2007 and for individual sale.

      Objective Five (survey participants within 12 months of each training): Please see above.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.