Three Franklin County farms receive grants to protect water, air quality

The Recorder, December 28, 2018, by Richie Davis

Three Franklin County farms will share $39,000 in state “Agricultural Environmental Enhancement” grants for applying technologies that improves protection of water and air quality as part of their operations.

The grants, to Sidehill Farm in Hawley, Sunrise Farms in Colrain and Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, are among 23 awarded as part of the Department of Agricultural Resources’  Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program.

Colrain’s Sunrise Farm was awarded $25,000 for a “zero emissions electric evaporator,” which circulates pressurized steam through coils immersed in the sap, and all heat is self-contained, so that electricity is used only at the start of the boiling process.

Farmer Rockwell Lively said that because the grant is not yet in hand to purchase the equipment, it will not be available for the coming sugaring season, which could begin as soon as a couple of months from now.

Once the electric evaporator is in place, it should operate much more energy efficiently — and without emission of smoke from burning fuel for boiling down sap.

Sidehill Farm

At Sidehill Farm, $10,000 was given to upgrade a bark-bed system, which farmer Paul Lacinski called “like a septic system-lite” for treating wastewater from the dairy farm’s creamery and milk room. The system, installed six years ago, hasn’t worked properly, so the improvements are designed to convert the anaerobic system into  an aerobic system.
The retrofit uses fish tank “air stones” and a pair of continuous air pumps to bubble oxygen into the anaerobic system that had been overwhelmed by the amount of nutrients that were introduced with 300 gallons of wastewater a day.

Ideally, Lacinski was advised by retired regional health agent Glen Ayers, the system’s bacteria also work to rehabilitate the leach field.

Lacinski, who works to aerate bedding for Sidehill’s dairy cows over time to till it, dig it out, put it in windrows and eventually spreads it on the fields to essentially compost it, said, “We’re sort of big into aerobic. So I’m excited to be doing whole anaerobic thing with wastewater.”

Clarkdale Farm

Clarkdale was awarded $4,000 for improved pesticide storage by installing lockable cabinets.

The state program funds projects that improve water quality, promote water conservation, and/or improve air quality. Selected farmers are reimbursed for the approved costs of materials and labor up to $25,000.

State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said, “Farms across the Commonwealth work tirelessly to protect the state’s local food supply, and the funding awarded will ensure they are able to produce healthy, nutritious food while continuing efforts to protect our environment.”

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