ALLEGANY, NY – Since 2001, Canticle Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Allegany, NY, has embraced environmentally-responsible farming practices in growing its wide variety of produce. And now it has added yet another element to sustainable farming—solar energy. Most people call it going “green,” but Canticle Farms just sees it as another way to do things more naturally. And what’s more natural than using the sun’s energy to supplement your needs?
“We’re kind of an example of sustainable agriculture, so we might as well be an example of sustainable energy also,” said Mark Printz, Canticle Farm manager. The farm sells shares which entitle members to a wide variety of vegetables from each week’s spring, summer or fall harvest seasons.
Mr. Printz said, “We’ve been looking at it (solar energy) for a few years. We’re trying to sort of be an example to show folks what alternative energy can be, and just recently it’s become much more affordable for us. Because it’s become more popular, the price has come down on it.”
With the maturation of vegetables during spring and summer, the farm realizes an increased usage of electricity. Mr. Printz said, “We decided to do it to supplement some of the electric costs. It’s not going to do all of them though.”
Last week, Solar Liberty of Buffalo installed 25 solar panels on the eastern side of Canticle’s barn. The photovoltaic panels will harness the sun’s clean energy to power cold-storage units and run greenhouse fans in the summer as well as heat the greenhouses in colder months. The panels produce no waste or pollution, have no moving parts and do not produce noise.
“We’re looking at different avenues. Somewhere down the line, if we get big enough, maybe we’ll look into geothermal for our greenhouse and such, and just try to stay on the breaking edge of things,” said Mr. Printz. “The cost (of solar panels) was definitely economical at this time. The time it will take to recuperate the cost will depend on usage, since it is used very seasonally. It will be used primarily in the summertime to run the cooler and the fans in the greenhouses and such, but I think within four to five years we should redeem our investment.”
The farm was able to obtain grant money to pay for the project. Sr. Joyce Ramage, president of Canticle Farm, said, “Last year, 2009, was the 150th anniversary of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. And, of course, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany sponsor the farm. They did different things throughout the year to raise money, and they offered the money to us (Canticle Farm) for any projects that would be appropriate. So I asked at that time about the money to install the solar energy, and that’s where it came from.”
“It cost us just under $6,000 for everything,” said Sr. Ramage. “It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time—for quite a number of years before my time—but the price was so high at that time that we put it aside. So it was something that’s always been kind of on the back burner to do because we felt it was a natural step for us to take in our care of the environment.”
Canticle is a non-profit Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that grows certified naturally-grown (CNG) produce on 10 acres located in Allegany, NY. It is a ministry sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany (FSA) whose mission is “to reverence, protect, and honor the sacredness of God’s Creation.” Canticle Farm is “committed to connect all peoples, to practice Earth-friendly habits, and to come to a realization of a Creation-centered spirituality.”
To see the solar panel installation, visit the farm at 3835 South Nine Mile Road in Allegany. For member share information and farm hours, please call the Canticle Farm office at 716-373-0200, ext. 3358 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information online, visit www.canticlefarm.org.
By Eva Potter