From the category archives:


You might be surprised to learn that farms are spending more on fertilizer and pesticides than fuel.  The USDA Economic Research Service and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey found that the highest energy expenses come from indirect energy sources such as fertilizers and pesticides.  The agricultural farm’s share of indirect expenses is about 17.1%.  Whereas, direct energy’s share of expenses, such as fuel and electricity, is about 8.5%. This data is throughout all farm sizes in U.S. farm businesses.

When looking at all farm sizes, the survey found that small farm businesses highest production expense comes from about 12% of direct energy expenditure.   Medium-sized farm businesses highest energy expense is around 22% of indirect energy expenditure.  The large farm businesses have a higher labor expense which thereby reduces the total energy based expenses. 

The chart below is found in the September 2014 Amber Waves data feature, “Agricultural Energy Use and the Proposed Clean Power Plan.”

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A Solar Crop For Farmers

by Staff on July 17, 2014

Solar Panel CropIf our Virginia farmers say that there’s a crop that blends well with animals or grains, a crop that can succeed on a farm of any number of acres, a crop that requires no innoculations nor food/water nor harvest,  and in fact the crop is currently getting tax breaks and attracts investment … would you be curious?

Actually farmers all over the country are discovering that by utilizing their existing space and acreage they can provide one of our country’s most sought-after commodities … solar power.  The big companies have been pursuing this for awhile.  Giant firms like Duke Energy Renewables are selling power generated from solar energy to American University, George Washington University, and hospitals.  But the big firms have to buy up the land and the farmers already own it.   So now small farmers are getting in on the action too.

Here’s how it works.  Farmers may have various configurations of land and buildings that can accommodate solar panels.  The roof of a chicken house, barns or stables, or simply large quantities of open land that allow for the installation of the panels… and you’re in business.   For a larger scale solar farm the initial setup investment can be hefty.   There are potential investors and tax credits that need to be discussed regarding that aspect.  You’ll generate more power than you can use on just your own farm.  The money comes not only from your own operational savings but also when you sell your power back to other business entities.  Click here for a step-by-step on how this process begins.

The huge advantage farmers have is their land.  It’s actually better to put solar panels on motorized towers on the ground rather than on a roof, if possible.  That way the towers can be moved to point them so that they track the sun and they don’t get shaded.  Farmers have that elbow room.  Income from sold power can offset the cost of farm utilities or even provide a profit.

Some farmers choose to produce solar power and continue with their previous crops or livestock.  Here’s a story about a poultry farmer who cut costs with solar and made life a lot easier.  This alpaca farmer can sell his excess solar crop to the Tennessee Valley Authority to boost his income.  Here is how a small farmer covered 150 acres with enough solar to power over 4000+ homes for a month, and he’s landed a 20-year lease for his energy crop.  We’ve heard of a farmer who raises sheep that graze under and among the solar panels… helpfully mowing or basking in the shade of the panels.

We have a lot more to say about this in future articles.  Solar crops are important farm products.  And the farmer can even take an occasional vacation without worrying about the livestock or crops left behind.


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Gas Pipelines Across Virginia

by Staff June 22, 2014

Recently we wrote about a Spectra Energy proposed gas pipeline that would cross central Virginia north-to-south across Culpeper to Buckingham counties.  If all goes as they plan, it could be operating as soon as 2018.  According to reports from the DOT there are approximately 2,000 miles of these high pressure lines already in VA.   A high-pressure line [...]


Gas Pipeline Through Virginia

by Staff June 20, 2014

In Virginia, both buyers and sellers of real estate should be aware of the locations of a proposed gas pipeline that would run north/south throughout the middle of the state on its way from West Virginia to North Carolina.   The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) has published information that says landowners in areas that might be impacted [...]


Virginians Address Gas Extraction Guidelines

by Staff June 6, 2014

This week an advisory group met in Richmond to discuss possible responses to an energy company’s plans to extract natural gas from Virginia’s rock and shale by a method known as fracking.  This drilling method uses water, sand, and chemicals put into the earth to free the natural gas layers.  Environmentalists have expressed their concerns because at [...]


Farming Grass Reeds For Biofuels

by Staff November 19, 2012

There’s a current discussion that can affect not only consumers but also the character of farm production in the age of biofuels.  It hasn’t really impacted Virginia farmers yet, but it’s right next door in North Carolina.  At issue is the use of a giant grass/reed known as Arundo Donax. In some ways Arundo resembles bamboo when [...]