Area farms awarded grants to mitigate climate change

  • General Manager Spencer Gowan said Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls will install a new nitrate reduction system that is far more efficient than its current system, pictured. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Employees sort barramundi by size at Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls. The fish-farming business received a $50,000 state grant for a new nitrate reduction system. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Large circular holding tanks for barramundi at Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls. The organization received a $50,000 state grant for a new nitrate reduction system. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Barramundi swim in a holding tank at Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Great Falls Aquaculture is located in the industrial park in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 10/12/2021 5:32:40 AM

Seven Franklin County farms will benefit from $257,500 of the more than $2.9 million that the state Department of Agricultural Resources is distributing to help farms implement climate change mitigation strategies and solutions.

The grants will fund various projects, including agricultural environmental enhancement, agricultural energy efficiencies, farmland preservation, greenhouse gas emission reduction, improvements to soil health and livestock management, and more.

The seven Franklin County recipients are Chase Hill Farm in Warwick, Sweet Morning Farm in Leyden, Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden, Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls, Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Foxtrot Herb Farm in Shelburne Falls and Antes Farm in Conway.

Randy Facey, a member of the family-run Bree-Z-Knoll dairy farm, said their $50,000 grant award will support improvements to the farm’s ventilation systems and increase energy efficiency. Bree-Z-Knoll Farm is the last working dairy farm in Leyden, and is a founding member of the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative. According to Our Family Farms, Bree-Z-Knoll milks 120 cows and sells most of its product in the local area.

“We applied because there hasn’t been a lot of money in the dairy industry for the last 10-plus years,” Facey said. “With big projects like this, there’s usually not enough money for us to do it all on our own.”

Great Falls Aquaculture in Turners Falls received a $50,000 grant for a nitration reduction system.

General Manager Spencer Gowan said the farm, which raises trout and barramundi, tries to reuse as much water as possible, but the fish create ammonia as a byproduct that needs to removed.

“That ammonia gets broken down by our biofilters, down to nitrite first and then into nitrate,” Gowan explained. “Nitrite and nitrate are toxic to the fish.”

Gowan said Great Falls Aquaculture will install a new nitrate reduction system that is far more efficient than its current system.

“We can always do more,” Gowan said. “We’re using this technology for us to recirculate within the building, but ultimately it will affect the amount of nitrogen discharge. … It’s a valuable thing for the Connecticut River and very important for the Long Island Sound (where the river drains).”

Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland received $40,000 for a roof-mounted solar array with a battery backup for a new warehouse with a freezer for storing produce.

“We recently built a warehouse building to house a freezer and storage, and this grant is for solar panels on the south-facing roof to generate power,” said Caroline Pam, the farm’s manager. “It felt really good that if we were to increase our energy use, to set it off with renewable energy.”

Pam said the increased storage and power generation will help the farm fight climate change as the harvest season is reduced. She added the increased severity of weather makes it imperative that the farm have a backup energy source in case of extended power outages.

“We’re very much feeling attuned to the pattern of frequent and serious hurricanes,” Pam said. “That definitely affects what we’re able to grow and the risks that we take in doing it.”

Foxtrot Herb Farm in Shelburne Falls received $29,200, which Abby Ferla, the farm’s manager, said will be used to plant 4 acres of elderberries next spring to help expand the farm’s “economic viability” and climate resiliency.

“Elders are a native species that are incredibly resilient and like wet soil,” Ferla said. “It’s a really cool plant going forward for our region to increase food security.”

She added it will take about three years for the plants to produce their full harvest, but the berries are high on vitamin C and help combat the common cold.

Ferla said elderberries’ resistance to rain is important as summers are becoming more extreme and unpredictable in the Northeast.

“The projections for the Northeast mostly revolve around water and entrenched systems — longer periods of drought and longer periods of rain,” Ferla said. “It was really dry through June and we got a lot of rain in July. That’s sort of the inverse of what you’re used to.”

Ferla said the projections are bad, but the only thing farms can do is prepare and persevere.

“Hopefully there’s a possibility of farmers in the Northeast preparing for and adapting to climate change,” Ferla said. “I try not to be a pessimist about it.”

Additionally, Chase Hill Farm in Warwick was granted $49,500 to install a 12.6-kilowatt ground-mounted photovoltaic solar power system with a battery backup; Sweet Morning Farm in Leyden received $22,809 to install a 8.16-kilowatt tracking photovoltaic system; and Antes Farm in Conway received $16,000 for a no-till drill.

“Building a robust food system in Massachusetts requires smart investments to help our local farms and agricultural sector become more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said in a press release. “These grants will advance sustainable practices and help our family farms access new local markets, steward their land and natural resources, and prepare for the future.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579. Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.




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