Five years have gone by since the Green Energy Times’ article “Sustainable Sugaring” appeared (http://bit.ly/GET-sugaring). We felt it was time to reconnect with some of the people we interviewed and see how they are doing, especially regarding their sustainability efforts.
Silloway Maple – Randolph Center, Vermont
When we contacted Paul Lambert to find out how renewable power was doing at Silloway Maple, he told us, “We are extremely pleased with our sugarhouse solar installation. This year (2019), we had the same solar company, Integrity Energy, install a system on one of our barns.”
Silloway Maple’s main other business is dairy. The farm has 65 Holstein cattle which are raised to produce organic milk. Dairy farming uses a lot of electricity, much of it for cleaning, and the barn has 140 solar panels for a total of 42 kW. They were installed by Integrity Energy of East Bethel, Vermont, the same company that installed the earlier 17.5 kW system that was featured in the 2014 article mentioned above.
Lambert told us the original system paid for itself in about four and a half years, somewhat faster than anticipated. He said, “This is a good savings. I am impressed by it. A Rural USDA (REEP) grant paid for 25% of the system. We also got tax credits.” Both of the systems are grid-tied, and both supply electricity for household use for family members.
The Silloway Maple sugaring operation has 16,000 trees tapped. While electricity provides much of the energy for the farm, including power for pumps for drawing sap and reverse osmosis, the boiling still uses firewood. “We use blown-down wood for that,” Lambert said.
Efficiency Vermont has been a great source for Lambert, both on the farm and in his home, to reduce energy waste. He has sealed and insulated buildings and is using the wood from the forest for fuel.
Here, as elsewhere, the effects of climate change are noticeable. Maintaining sap lines is more difficult, and the hillside soil is suffering the effects of warmer weather.
Some of Silloway Maple’s products are used by bakeries, restaurants, and hotels, but most are sold locally at farmers’ markets in Vermont. You can also purchase products right at the sugar house. All year you can call Silloway Maple at 802-272-6249 for a free tour and samples. The web site is sillowaymaple.com.
North Family Farm – Canterbury, New Hampshire
The North Family Farm website has a motto that is worth repeating: “From the trees, wind and sun, crafted by hand for you.” In addition to being certified organic, North Family Farm is renewably powered with a 10-kilowatt (kW) wind turbine, a 7-kW solar array, both net-metered.
Tim Meeh, one of the owners, told us the wind turbine, which has been running for 28 years, gets regular maintenance but has been very productive. Asked about the solar, Meeh said, “The solar just keeps on working, and I’m glad we did it.” Apart from repairs that have had to be done to an inverter, the whole electrical system seems to have been both trouble-free and financially rewarding.
Demand for electricity is now much greater than it once was. With sap lines instead of buckets, and reverse osmosis doing much of the concentration, sugaring operations use much less energy than they used to, and most of it is powered by the wind and sun at North Family Farm. Now, even taking products to market is powered by the farm’s own renewable energy, which charges its Chevy Bolt.
Meeh said there is clear evidence of climate change on the farm. “Winters are not as cold as they used to be,” he said. “This makes it trickier to pull logs and make syrup. People are starting to tap in December and make syrup whenever the temperature is above freezing. But polar vortexes produce cold weather, and you have to find the right time to tap.”
North Family Farm will put on maple candy making demonstrations and have products on sale at the Canterbury Maple Festival at Canterbury Shaker Village on March 21 and 22. Their web site is northfamilyfarm.com.