Farming is an energy-intensive business, from the fuel needed to run equipment to the nutrients plants need to grow, to the energy it takes to power farm buildings and the farmstead itself. These days, that means energy costs can be a significant farm expense which is one reason more farmers are starting to integrate renewable energy sources into their farm energy mix.
Tim Landgraf and Jan Libbey, owners of "One Step at a Time Gardens" near Kanawha in northern Iowa, are working to make solar energy a central power source on their vegetable and pastured-poultry farm. They will host a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day Sunday, June 23, from 2-5 p.m., near Kanawha, which is in Hancock County. The public is invited to spend an afternoon exploring the many ways they're harnessing the sun's energy to power the farm.
The event, "Working Toward a Sun-Powered Farm," is free to attend and will feature many opportunities for hands-on learning. Tim and Jan will discuss energy projects underway at the farm including their walk-in cooler efficiency project, new voltaic solar array and energy-efficient features of the farmhouse. Attendees can learn about photosynthesis in the field and solar power through several hands-on activities, including a scavenger hunt; solar print-making; demonstrations of solar cooking, photovoltaic cells and a solar oven; and a chance to generate their own energy with PFI's Energy Generation and Conservation demonstration.
They have a number of solar energy projects underway on this farm
"We are interested in constantly exploring sustainable practices on the farm," Jan says. "Energy use is our latest focus and we are trying, in line with our name, to model steps others could take as well. This will be an unusual field day because the spotlight is on the field in a whole new way; thinking about our farming through the lens of solar energy."
Speakers will include Dave Hade, a homebuilder with Iowa Home Crafters; Steve Guyer, solar array installer with GWA International, Inc.; and Rich Schuler, PFI On-Farm Energy Program consultant. After the field day, Tim and Jan will host a dessert potluck. Bring a dessert to share, tableware and lawn chairs; beverages will be provided. The field day is sponsored by the Farm Energy Working Group, GWA International, Inc., Iowa Home Crafters and Wheatsfield Cooperative.