Grantees: Vermont's Oilseed Producers
Feed & Fuel: Oilseed Crop Production Grantees
“Growing oilseeds is by no means a magic solution to the many challenges currently facing farmers in New England and around the country. However, it presents a clear opportunity for diversification and security for growers, where a greater control of inputs and crop choices can be developed. Growers and the greater community are excited to follow and be involved in this rapidly developing field.” — Jon Satz
Since 2005, VSJF has provided farmers with grant opportunities to diversify and add value to their operations, while controling fuel and feed costs, by producing biodiesel and protein meal. VSJF provides "high touch" grant-making, working hand in hand with oilseed growers and technical assistance providers to improve cultivation methods and document the cost of production and profitability. VSJF consultants, such Chris Callahan from Callahan Engineering, have been instrumental in developing tools, standard operating procedures, and guidelines to share with potential new producers.
Clear Brook Farm
Grantee: Andrew Knafel
Location: Shaftsbury, Vermont; Bennington County
Crops: Sunflowers (organic)
Project Description: Andrew Knafel, a board member of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, started Clear Brook Farm in 1994, growing more than twenty acres of organic vegetables and small fruits, as well as over a half acre of greenhouses used in the production of bedding plants, organic tomatoes, and field starts for the farm. Over the last three years, Clear Brook has been experimenting with organic canola and sunflower oilseed production for use as biodiesel for on-farm equipment. Clear Brook grew around 525 bushels of sunflower seeds in 2008, and in 2010, grew 10 acres of sunflower seed for biodiesel and edible oil production. Clear Brook has collaborated with State Line Farms on production issues of oilseed crops over the last 3 years.
Clear Brook Farm was awarded $20,000 in 2008-2010 to research the most efficient and cost effective means of growing and handling oilseed crops among a group of small-farms within a 30 mile radius from State Line Biofuels in Bennington County in order to increase the capacity to produce, store, and process oilseed crops and biodiesel in Southwestern Vermont.
Grantee: Larry Scott & Peggy Hewes
Location: Newbury, Vermont (Orange County)
Crops: Soybeans, Sunflowers, Canola (conventional)
Project Description: In transition after being a dairy operation for three generations, Ekolott Farm moved to Vermont from western Massachusetts in 1980 and increased the herd of registered Holsteins to 220, consistently achieving milk quality awards from Agrimark-Cabot until the cows were sold in 2004. The farm operations are managed by Larry Scott, his wife Peggy Hewes, and his parents Roger and Bernice Scott, with occasional part-time hired help. Diversification of the farm had already begun in 1994 when the farm began raising emus under the business name Riverside Emus, and is currently the largest and one of the oldest emu farms in Vermont. The Scott family are founding members of Vermont Prime Emu Producers, a small group of emu growers who work cooperatively to develop and market emu oil products.
Since 2004, Ekolott Farm has moved in several new directions, with a concentration on raising food and fuel for local markets. In addition to a small beef herd of 31 Herefords, Ekolott raises approximately 30 pigs throughout the year with all animals fed almost exclusively home-grown forage and grains. Ekolott Farm is licensed for on-farm meat sales and has been developing a local customer base for beef, pork, and emu through on-farm and farmers’ market sales.
With a long-term goal to operate farm equipment and heat farmhouses with biodiesel from oilseeds produced on the farm, Ekolott has been growing soybeans, sunflowers, and canola, while building the infrastructure and knowledge for drying, storing, and processing these crops into biodiesel. Ekolott Farm is also participating in a REAP grant sponsored by the Agency of Agriculture to study the feasibility of on-farm production of the ethanol needed for making biodiesel.
Ekolott Farm was awarded $17,000 in 2008-2010 to establish sunflower crop trials, collect data and analyze the results. Areas of research included comparing yields at varying seeding rates, methods for maintaining optimal seed moisture content at pressing to increase oil yields, tracking labor and energy costs, and documenting oil transfer, storage and stabilization methods.
Ekolott Farm was awarded a second grant for 2011-2013 of $30,000 to gather comparative agronomic and economic data on organic and conventional methods of oilseed crop production and processing and evaluate organic desiccants, deer repellant, planting and harvest times to reduce crop loss to birds and deer.
North Hardwick Dairy
Grantee: Taylor & Nick Meyer
Location: Hardwick, Vermont; Caledonia County
Crops: Sunflowers (organic, certified)
Project Description: In 2003, North Hardwick Dairy, a family-owned dairy farm, decided to transition to organic production with the younger Meyer boys taking over the farm. Today, Nick and Taylor produce some of the highest quality milk in the state of Vermont, winning numerous awards and gaining notoriety for their sustainable and innovative approach.
The long-term goal for the farm is to operate self-sufficiently on renewable energy. “I want to produce everything the farm needs on the farm,” Nick Meyer explains. North Hardwick Dairy uses 4,000 gallons of diesel each year (2,000 gallons of diesel for off- road equipment and 2,000 gallons in their furnace). At an Organic Valley award ceremony in 2004 to honor North Hardwick Dairy’s seventh year of winning “best organic milk,” Meyer came across a card advertising the BioPro 190, a small automated machine that turns vegetable oil into biodiesel. He purchased a BioPro in 2005 but was unable to get enough used vegetable oil to meet his needs. With a grant from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, North Hardwick Dairy planted sunflowers and bought an oilseed press. Nick’s plan is to use the press to create food grade oil that he would sell to local restaurants for frying and then reclaim the used oil for making biodiesel. In the summer, all the tractors on the farm run on B50, and the furnace runs on B15 during the winter months. The organic meal is mixed with grains to feed to his calves and heifers.
North Hardwick Dairy was awarded $13,000 to grow, harvest, and process sunflower seeds in northeastern Vermont in order to research the most efficient and cost effective means of growing and handling oilseed crops for biodiesel production. By analyzing the agronomic and economic data, North Hardwick Dairy determined feasibility of growing sunflowers to expand production in the region for offsetting fuel and feed costs.
Otter Creek Biofuels
Grantee: Brad Lawes, Dean Lawes, and Jon Satz
Location: Brandon, Vermont; Rutland County
Crops: Soybeans and Sunflowers (conventional and organic)
Project Description: Otter Creek Biofuels is collaboration of oilseed growers, primarily Brad and Dean of Lawes Agriculture Service and Jon Satz of Wood’s Market Garden. Jon owns and operates Wood’s Market Garden with his wife Courtney, cultivating 30 acres of organic vegetables and small fruits, as well as 25,000 square feet of greenhouses for the production of vegetable and ornamental starts and bedding plants. The farm is transitioning the greenhouse heating sources off propane toward on-farm renewables. Jon is a board member and vice president of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, and member of NOFA- VT, Rural VT, and Renewable Energy Vermont.
Brad and Dean Lawes have owned and operated Lawes Agriculture Services for 23 years. They supply feed and fertilizer and other supplies to Vermont farms and institutions, including offering custom application. They own and maintain an extensive line of equipment and storage for both conventional and organic application. In 2009, Brad and Dean cultivated 134 acres for oilseed production, and custom harvested crops on another +/-100 acres.
Otter Creek Biofuels was awarded $20,000 in 2008-2010 to produce oilseed crops and establish the infrastructure to process harvested seeds. Twenty-seven acres of sunflowers and soybeans were the original objective for crop acreage. Both organic and conventional methods were to be utilized, with detailed records identifying the costs and benefits of each system. The capacity to process the seeds into usable oil form and livestock meals involved construction of seed storage and drying facilities for the harvested seed, along with purchase of a press for processing the seeds into meal and oil.
For 2011-2013, Otter Creek Biofuels was awarded $30,000 to gather comparative agronomic and economic data on organic and conventional methods of oilseed crop production and processing in order to expand oilseed crop production and oilseed pressing in West Central Vermont for eventual processing into biodiesel.