Smart Energy Management in Agriculture
The Ecological Farming Association is implementing 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. The first of four trainings was completed in March 2006 in Healdsburg, Calif.
Objective One (over the course of four or more trainings, 125 California farmers will incorporate renewable energy technologies and energy conservation in their operations): Immediately following the March 2006 training, 29 of 31 respondents (93.5%) 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. A 12-month follow-up survey has yet to be completed to determine actual implementation data.
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): To date, two 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. A second committee of 8 people has adapted the curriculum and presenters for the second training (Central Coast).
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 on March 23, 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. Therefore, the three remaining trainings will take place in 2007 and are scheduled as follows: Central Coast–January 23-24; San Joaquin Valley–Spring; Sacramento Valley–Fall.
A summary of the First Training on March 23, 2006: 58 registrants and 18 presenters/experts converged at the organic vineyards and farm of Lou and Susan Preston in Healdsburg, California. Planned over several months by a 21-member committee, the day was an exciting debut for the Smart Energy project. The workshop portion of the day included general information, approaches, and resources for understanding and evaluating energy use. It also included specific presentations about solar thermal and pumping, photovoltaic solar, strategic financing, biofuels, and wind energy. The group took an extended tour of the Preston of Dry Creek Winery and farm facility that uses photovoltaic solar panels and vehicles fueled by Straight Veggie Oil. Each attendee received a 150-page handbook that included information on the topics listed above, as well as additional info on biomass, geothermal, and expanded information on energy efficiency and conservation. Several solar providers were on site to answer questions during breaks. Finally, in the tradition that is Eco-Farm’s, wholesome gourmet organic food was served at lunch by Worth Our Weight, a culinary school for at-risk teens, and the event concluded with a lavish reception of Preston of Dry Creek wine, artisan bread, and olive oil, as well as hand-crafted cheese by Pug’s Leap farmstead.
Thirty-two survey respondents indicated their: 1) average satisfaction with training curriculum was 96.88%, 2) success at increasing or enhancing knowledge of the subject averaged 91.88%, 3) interactions with presenters and peers proved to be helpful with a 91.25% average, 4) handouts and handbook were useful with an average rating of 83.13%, and 5) expectations for the event were met with an average of 93.75%.
In addition to this first training, the Ecological Farming Conference in January 2007 has taken an energy theme, “Farm Power: Growing It Organically,” and is including a special “energy” track expected to reach 500 attendees that covers 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 was developed to complement the training curriculum and to provide additional information and resources for producers. Fifty-eight handbooks have been distributed to producers, and an additional 12 to interested parties (energy providers who work directly with agricultural customers, educators, etc.). Key components of the handbook are available on the Ecological Farming Association’s website at: www.eco-farm.org/energy. Additional updated handbooks of 200+ pages will be available at upcoming trainings, the Eco-Farm Conference in January, and for individual sale.
Objective Five (survey participants within 12 months of each training): will be implemented in stages beginning March 2007.
–Regional committee plans first training curriculum, 21 people involved
–First (Northern Coast) training held on March 23, 2006 in Healdsburg, Calif.
–February 16, 2006 supplemental training, hosted in cooperation with the UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, focused on dairy people and renewable energy options
–150-page handbook developed
–Publish article on biofuels in Eco-farm newsletter and distribute to 10,000+ people
–Establish energy website at www.eco-farm.org/energy
Influence upcoming Ecological Farming Conference to include energy plenary and workshops, conference titled: “Farm Power: Growing It Organically”
–Regional committee plans second training curriculum, 8 people involved
–Expand handbook to 200+ pages
–Second training (Central Coast) to be held January 23-24, 2007 at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, Calif.
–Convene planning committees for Central Valley and Sacramento Valley trainings
–Additional handbook distribution
–Hold third and fourth trainings
–Complete follow-up surveys with participants (to be completed in stages by Fall 2008) and analysis of data
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
a) Increasing producer knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and skills: By the culmination of the first training, 58 attendees had been provided with an array of information, resources, personal stories, hands-on examples, and encouragement, all designed to increase competency in evaluating and implementing changes in energy consumption and sources on the farm.
b) Information dissemination: In the course of producing the first training, 2500 people were informed about the event, 58 growers attended, and the Eco-Farm newsletter published a front-page opinion piece about biofuels and promoted the program to 10,000 readers. The information presented is also posted on our Smart Energy website (www.eco-farm.org/energy) and become available to web visitors.
c) Resources impacted: Agriculture consumes 14% of California’s diesel fuel and 7% of the state’s total electricity. Adoption of conservation and efficiency measures and well as conversion to biofuels and alternative energy sources, including various solar technologies, wind, biomass digesters, etc., can substantially impact energy resource use in the state. Smart Energy Management in Agriculture provides quality learning opportunities and practical, expert training for growers to positively impact their farm energy management choices.
d) Positive economic impact: Growers realize immediate cost savings by implementing conservation and efficiency measures. Transitioning to renewable energy and fuel sources provides both cost savings as well as stabilization of operating expenses through on-site energy production. The Smart Energy Management in Agriculture curriculum presents a strong emphasis on conservation and efficiency, as well as clear explanations of incentive programs in which growers can participate.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060-5841
Office Phone: 8314232824
PO Box 249
San Juan Bautista, CA 95075-0245
Office Phone: 8316232806
9292 W. Dry Creek Rd.
Healdsburg, CA 95488
PO Box 871
Carmel Valley, CA 93924-0871
Office Phone: 8316594574
12230 Livingston Cressey Rd.
Livingston, CA 95334-9714
Office Phone: 2093941420
Molino Creek Farm/Gophers Limited
8315 Hermosa Ave
Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Office Phone: 8313362852
National Center for Appropriate Technology
PO Box 2218
Davis, CA 95617
Office Phone: 5307927338
Harmony Farm Supply
PO Box 640
Graton, CA 95444
Office Phone: 7078239125
13886 Road 20
Madera, CA 93637-9222
Office Phone: 5596739058
172 Litchfield Lane
Watsonville, CA 95076-0620
Office Phone: 8317632448
1764 Cooper Rd.
Sebastopol, Ca 95472