On a muggy day in July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a Pennsylvania dairy farm that is using an anaerobic digester to convert manure into electricity and high quality bedding, cutting energy costs and providing a resting area for more contented cows. The digester, which went on-line a year ago, was funded in part with the support of USDA Rural Development.
Pennwood Farms, a farm owned by the Harvey Stoltzfus family, is constantly reinventing, changing and modernizing to ensure that the entire family–with six grandchildren– can continue farming together for years to come. They started farming with 18 cows in 1962 on 50 acres rented from Harvey’s mother and gradually grew their herd to 570. The farm remains family-owned, uses an anaerobic digester to produce all of its electricity and sells enough power back to the local grid to meet the needs of an estimated 600 people. The digester also produces clean bedding as a byproduct, which saves the owners from having to buy bedding for the dairy herd. In all, manure from the farm creates about 920,000 kWh of electricity a year.
USDA supported deployment of the biodigester by providing grants and loans in 2010 totaling over $528,000 through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This project is an example of investments the Obama Administration has made to help create jobs and grow the rural economy.
To read more about the Secretary’s visit, click here.