Now Check out Big Picture Farm in Townshend
Big Picture Farm (BPF) in Townshend, Vermont, was started by Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell as a place to raise goats and make cheese and other products from their milk. They started out with three animals, clearly a modest beginning. In the time since then, the farm has grown and prospered. BPF has about 100 acres of land and a herd of about 40 productive goats, and it is now known nationally as a source of award-winning caramels. Conrad told us, “The secret of the caramels is the milk they are made from.” That may be the secret, but it is one that she can safely share. Not everyone has goats like hers.
Their goat dairy is Animal Welfare Approved. They graze on the freshest grass, because they are moved to fresh forage twice each day. Conrad and Farrell take care to protect the wetland areas of the farm from the goats, as a sustainable approach to land management. Also, notably, the producing goats are only about half of those on the farm, because older goats are allowed to retire to graze happily in the fields. Conrad said of them, “They are just living the good life.”
The BPF approach to operations goes beyond taking care of their herd, and Conrad told us about other things that set BPF apart. “We want to make the business as low-impact and sustainable as possible,” she said. For example, they are now in the process of eliminating use of virgin plastics from their packaging, as well.
Their use of energy is a matter of importance. Several years ago, they had two tracking solar systems installed to provide 50% of the electricity they use. BPF has grown, however, and that means it needs more electricity than it did in the past, so now the tracking solar systems provide only about 25% of what is needed.
Recently, Conrad and Farrell decided to expand their use of solar photovoltaics, and they contacted Victoria Roberts of Southern Vermont Solar. After examining the options, they decided to install a new solar system on the roof of a barn. The decision to do this was not trivial, because the barn is old and the roof needed to be stronger. They decided to replace the part of the roof supporting the solar panels, about half of the roof.
The new system has a capacity of nearly 33 kilowatts. It consists of 84 Hanwha modules, each rated at 390 watts. It has Enphase micro-inverters. The new rooftop system supplies all the demand not covered by the old tracking system, so now, BPF has 100% of its electricity provided by sunshine.
Southern Vermont Solar also assisted BPF with getting financing by helping with grant applications. One grant came from REAP (Rural Energy for America Program), which is funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The overall experience that Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell had with the solar installation was very positive. Conrad said, “Southern Vermont Solar was amazing. They did a fabulous job.”