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Patrick-Murray Administration Awards $455,000 in Energy Grants to Massachusetts Farm Projects

By Lucas Willard

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-998061.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – Awarded through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Agricultural Energy Grant Program - or AEGP - is intended to assist farm projects installing and establishing clean energy resources, and improve electrical efficiency. The grants were announced just 3 days after the Administration also announced the Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program - $475,000 grant program directed towards land and water conservation practices.
DAR Commissioner Scott Soares explains the role of the AEGP.
The AEGP and AEEP are similar - both are competitive grant programs where applicants are chosen on criteria of not only the impact of the project itself, but also the demonstrated ability to carry out those projects. The programs are both designed to impact a cross-section of Massachusetts' agriculture. The difference is where the funding is targeted - Energy vs Land and Water Conservation methods.
Brad Mitchell, the Director of Government Relations for the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, explained that supplying energy on farms can be particularly costly.
The Energy Grants will assist projects ranging from installing solar panels - something increasingly popular - to biomass boilers, thermal blankets, and reverse osmosis machines for maple syrup producers, and more.
Red Fire Farm is one of the 32 recipients of the grant. The organic produce farm has two locations, in Granby, Massachusetts, and a new parcel of land that was purchased 3 years ago in Montague. Red Fire Farm received $22,500 from the AEGP to install a geothermal system at their new location. To keep winter vegetables fresh, the farm needs climate-controlled storage areas, and lots of water. Instead of cooling or warming those storage areas with ordinary refrigeration, the geothermal system will draw heat or cold from the constant-temperature ground water the farm uses to rinse vegetables, to also help regulate their vegetable barn's temperature.
Co-owner Ryan Voiland explains
This leads up to a big savings, says Ryan's father, Paul Voiland, who is also the mastermind of the farm's geothermal equipment.
Red Fire Farm has also received a previous $100,000 grant from the DAR's Renovation Agricultural Improvement Program to help build their new facility in Montague.
In total, the AEGP has funded 89 projects across Massachusetts since 2009, totaling around 1.2 million dollars in aid to farmers to increase energy efficiency.