A major component of this project was working directly with vegetable, floriculture, and dairy farmers to build networks of producers and users that work together to establish an economically viable, sustainable system for producing and/or using shelled corn as a crop for greenhouse heat. The basic details of all the major participant are listed below. Detailed case studies for each grower will be available soon in this project section.
Leaping Frog Farm – Buckland, MA:
We are currently working with Leaping Frog Farm to minimally heat an area limited to just above the crops in their hoop tunnels. Leaping Frog Farm grows fresh, winter harvested vegetables and root cellar crops, strawberries, and specialty fruits. Trough innovative practices the farm seeks to minimize off-farm inputs and close the carbon loop. They use a variety of methods for reducing energy use, and estimate that energy inputs in their crop production and delivery are less than 6 percent of energy inputs of produce shipped in from California. Using locally produced biomass to add minimal heat to their greenhouse will increase their production & markets without a significant increase in their carbon footprint.
Ravenwold Greenhouses – Florence, MA:
Ravenwold Greenhouses has purchased, installed, and is using an LMF Amaizeing heat furnace. They have also purchased a harvester/sheller for processing grain corn, and have been experimenting with ways to grow a portion of their own fuel. They succeeded in field drying their corn to below the minimum threshold for burning, and tested the fuel in their stove over the 2009-2010 heating season. They grew several acres of fuel corn in 2010 which they used to fuel their greenhouse through the 2010-2011 growing season. They have also developed a prototype for a low-cost, low-tech devise for screening corn driven by the PTO unit from a tractor.
Atlas Farm – South Deerfield, MA:
Atlas farm has purchased and installed an LDJ Amaizeing heat corn boiler. He's using this hydronic heating system to provide in-ground heat directly to the root zone of his greenhouse tomato crop. Any excess heat is circulated through a water-to-air heat exchanger and used to heat the greenhouse. Atlas farm recently hosted the first of our on-farm public meetings showcasing the corn heat system in action. They are purchasing fuel corn from Five Point Farm in Northfield, MA but are also interested in growing their own fuel as a rotational crop.
Warner Farm – Sunderland, MA:
Warner farm has purchased a Maxim 250,000 BTU outdoor hydronic heater from Central Boiler. This unit meets all current and pending EPA standards for clean air emissions. There are some issues with new MDAR regulations on outdoor hydronic furnaces burning corn as fuel, but we are working with EPA and MDAR to resolve these issues before the unit is put into operation.
McKinstry Market Garden – Chicopee MA:
This farm had been approved to join our network in 2010. Given the relatively low price of fuel (compared to corn) and the difficult financial times that followed their initial application, they decided that this is the right time for them to transition to a renewable fuel source.
Marini Farm – Ipswitch MA:
The Marini family has been farming their land in Ipswitch for three generations. There are currently 200 acres of mixed fruits and vegetables in production, as well as a small range of greenhouses producing bedding plants and vegetable starts. With help from this project Marini Farm installed and is using an amaizeing heat corn boiler to provide hydronic heat for one of their greenhouses. They are currently buying corn from Yellows-Green, but may adopt a system similar to the one being developed at Ravenwold Greenhouses for growing, drying, and screening their own corn. They have also purchased and installed a number of other corn boilers, as they find the system to be fairly easy to use and very cost effective.
Brox Farm – Dracut, MA:
Brox Farm has purchased and installed a 160,000 btu LDJ Amaizeing heat furnace, supplied by Yellows Green in Fitchburg, MA. They are purchasing corn from Yellows Green, who are retailing corn they purchase from Five Point Farm.
Indian Head Farm – Berlin, MA:
Indian Head Farm has purchased and installed a 100,000 btu LDJ Amaizeing heat furnace. They are also purchasing corn from Yellows Green.
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project – Dracut, MA:
This farm is joining our eastern network in the 2009-2010 season. New Entry is a new farmer training program that operates and maintains 3 training farms in Dracut, MA, which new growers can use for up to three years before transition to their own farms. They host approximately 20-30 new farmers every year. Currently, the farmers in their program contract out production of their transplants to other farms. To address this issue they are erecting their own greenhouse, and will be engaging in our network of renewable energy producers and users to provide heated greenhouse space to their farmers. Over time, through our partnership with the New Entry project, we will be training hundreds of new farmers in the benefits of this technology. The New Entry program has purchased, installed, and experimented with a corn heat system in the 2009-2010 heating season. A variety of staffing difficulties has kept them from using it in full time production, but it has been used in numerous teaching sessions for new growers (see attached case study) and will be the cornerstone of their heating system when the greenhouse goes into full production.
Hilltop Farm – Westport, MA:
Hilltop Farm is a new and expanding farm in Southeastern MA. They are currently researching and purchasing a corn burner to heat one of their four greenhouses, with an existing propane system serving as a backup. They have purchased, installed, and used the corn furnace during the 2011-2012 heating season. Unfortunately, they have never claimed their reimbursement nor shared their data.
Bartlett Farm – Nantucket, MA:
Bartlett's Farm is Nantucket Island's Oldest and Largest family owned farm. Another new addition to the program, they are installing a corn furnace to use for heating a small greenhouse where they grow herbs for the retail side of their operation. They have been purchasing corn at a high premium ($400/ton); they find that rye seed is cheaper on the island and burns easier, if not as hot. They have also expressed interest in eventually growing their own grain corn as a rotational crop.