The Minnesota Project's blog features news, analysis, resources, musings, and events Centered on Sustainability in the areas of clean energy, local food, and conservation agriculture. Visit our Web site to learn more about the organization and our work at www.mnproject.org.
St. Paul, MN – After being devastated by a late spring frost in 2012, Minnesota’s apple crop came roaring back with a bountiful harvest in 2013. The result was that over 100,000 pounds of excess fresh fruit was collected to help feed hungry families in the state.
Fruits of the City, a program of The Minnesota Project, worked with many commercial orchards, hobby orchardists and metro-area homeowners with backyard fruit trees to collect the fresh fruit, which was then distributed to over 30 area food shelves and three regional food banks.
“Last year, with a tough season for apples, we were still able to glean and collect 38,000 pounds of fruit,” said Jared Walhowe, Fruits of the City’s gleaning manager. “But with such a great growing season for fruit this year, we were able to almost triple that amount.”
Fruit tree and orchard owners appreciate the efforts of Fruits of the City to connect the fruit, which would otherwise go uneaten, with those in need. “I think it’s great that apples that can’t or won’t make it to market can be picked and collected for a good cause. This is great fruit and should never go to waste,” said Tom Voehl of Avery’s Apples.
In addition to working with orchard and fruit tree owners to collect the fruit, Fruits of the City also works with volunteer groups, many from corporate offices and universities in the Twin Cities’ Metro, to go out to orchards to harvest the fruit.
“It is important to our corporation to give back to the community,” said Benjamin Ecklund of Ameriprise. “When I heard about Fruits of the City, I thought it would be a great opportunity for our employees and their families to be outside and help those in need. Fruits of the City provides an invaluable service to the Twin Cities Metro area. Everyone had a great time picking apples, enjoying beautiful fall weather, and helping our local food shelves.”
Fruits of the City began their efforts in 2009 by gleaning 15,000 pounds of fruit. Last year, the program recruited nearly 200 volunteers and collected 38,000 pounds of fresh fruit. This year the program recruited over 500 volunteers to glean 100,000 pounds. Six neighborhood coordinators also work to connect with backyard fruit tree owners to harvest fruit. Fruits of the City also offers education to fruit tree owners on the care of their trees.
Matching funds are still available for supporters of The Minnesota Project. Your gift to support The Minnesota Project and its great programs such as Fruit of the City will be doubled by the generosity of the SUPERVALU Foundation. To support, please visit www.givemn.razoo.com/story/Minnesota-Project
In 2011, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry began classifying agricultural buildings as “wet environments” via the National Electric Code. Curiously, no poultry farmer would want a “wet environment” since moisture does not help bird health. For agricultural wiring purposes, nonetheless, a wet environment requires enclosed, dust-tight, and corrosion resistant light fixtures. Many of the existing open, porcelain screw-in fixtures that hold incandescent or curly-q CFL bulbs do not meet the new “wet environment” standard. To make matters urgent, the word on the street is that Minnesota state inspectors are getting active and requiring junction boxes and jelly jars for poultry producers.
As much as poultry producers do not need another burden, this new regulation may turn out to be a benefit in the end. LED poultry lights, including those of ONCE Innovations, our project partner, meet the new “wet environment” standard and have the appropriate housing under the 2011 National Electric Code. Moreover, most LED poultry lights only consume around 12 watts an hour, may be dimmed, and have a science-backed lifespan of 35,000 to 50,000 hours or more, depending on the maker. In comparison, incandescent bulbs consume oodles more energy at 100 watts or 75 watts with a rated lifespan of 5,000 hours. Frankly, LED bulbs easily outshine other lights.
If poultry farmers will be forced to purchase new lighting fixtures or jelly jars in order to meet code, they might as well invest the money in LED poultry lighting technology and save themselves energy dollars and a visit from a state code inspector. The Minnesota Project would be happy to provide more info for interested farmers. Just give us a call at (651) 789-3330 for real poultry farm data we’ve amassed through our CARD grant with the Minnesota DER.
You’re officially invited to our Poultry LED Lighting & Energy Efficiency Field Day:
Who: Rural electric cooperative staff, energy service professionals, poultry farmers, production managers, and everyone in between.
What: Presentations and pro tips from
- GDS Associates’ Ag Energy Specialist Jennifer Brinker
- ONCE Innovations‘ Ag Lighting Pro and CEO Brian Wilcox
- Project participant turkey farmers
When: Friday, October 11th, from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Where: U-MN Extension’s Mid-Central Research & Outreach Center, 1802 18th Street NE, Willmar, MN
Why: The event is FREE and open to the public. Come learn how to achieve energy savings in poultry production. Lunch is free too.
How: Register at www.ledpoultry.eventbrite.com or call Maggie at (612) 626-0555.
Here’s the Poultry Field Day flyer to pass on to friends and colleagues. Thank you and we hope to see you in Willmar on October 11!
Back in 2007, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill, the Next Generation Energy Act, to establish energy savings goals for electric and gas utilities (Minn. Stat. Sec. 216B.241). Under the mandate, each electric utility must develop an energy conservation plan to accomplish 1.5% average retail energy savings over a three year period.
Right now, you’re probably thinking “What utility company in their right mind would want to reduce their energy sales?” Well, the Minnesota Legislature had an answer for that: Let the utilities recover the expenses of their conservation improvement plans and recapture their lost revenue in rate making proceedings and bill riders at the Public Utilities Commission (Check out Minnesota Statute Sections 216B.241, subdivision 2b and 216B.16, subdivision 6b if you don’t believe me). In other words, rate payers are still paying for the energy we are not consuming, but it’s still a lot cheaper than paying for new power plants.
In practice, utility conservation improvement programs (CIP) manifest in rebate packages for residences and businesses – new lighting, efficient fans and water heaters, improved building controls, etc. But agriculture has been largely left behind in the development of CIP programming. To complicate matters further, rural electric cooperatives have had difficulty meeting the 1.5% retail energy savings mandate; they are not able to capture the economies of scale from large manufacturers and dense populations that investor-owned utilities can. After all, they’re rural and cooperative for good reason: They serve their neighbors.
Fortunately, the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 also included money for research and development grants. The Minnesota Project seized the R&D opportunity to work with poultry producers to lower their production costs with technology, and do the leg work toward CIP agricultural rebates for rural electric cooperatives to facilitate achieving the 1.5% retail energy savings goals. And that, my friends, is why The Minnesota Project is working with poultry farmers on LED lighting.
Back in April 2012, Oklahoma State University concluded an LED lighting project with a dairy farm. Much like TMP’s LED poultry project, the OSU researchers sought to test the LED lights’ energy savings potential and the durabi
lity of the bulbs. In addition, they tracked cow health and milk productivity out of concern the LEDs might harm the dairy cows. The researchers were pleasantly surprised to find the dairy cows increased milk production by 6% with no negative side effects. In other words, the dairy farmer was getting more product with lowered production costs – quite the ideal. You can read more on the 2012 study in Holstein World or in Iowa Farmer Today.
Though the 6% production increase is only one data point in the short LED history on dairy cows, LEDs are showing promise, especially in light of a dairy practice known as Long Day Lighting. In brief, Long Day Lighting involves keeping the dairy barn lights on a little longer, usually 16-18 hours, during the shorter days of the year. This practice has been proven to boost milk production 5-16% with no harm to the cows. Combining ultra-efficient LEDs with Long Day Lighting practices in the dairy industry has real potential to boost profitability. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for more research on LEDs for dairies. Increased milk production by LED bulb is not science quite yet, but LEDs might just give the competitive advantage to keep your farm at the top.
TMP staff members have seen a few advertisements for residential LED and CFL lights that offer significant decreases in agricultural electricity costs with just a “simple bulb swap.”
Now, don’t get us wrong – we love low-energy lighting technology – but producers might want to consider the durability of any LED or CFL bulb advertised for both domestic and agricultural lighting. Most people do not keep their living rooms in humid, dusty, and 90-degree conditions. And most turkeys do not prefer over-stuffed couches with ambient reading light. In other words, do not be fooled by any “cool” factor these residential light posers offer. Think twice about a “simple bulb swap” because it ain’t that simple.
There are LED lights specifically designed for agriculture. Companies like ONCE Innovations out of Plymouth, MN (our project partner) manufacture LED lights specifically for gnarly barn conditions. Our LED Lights for Poultry project is giving ONCE Innovation’s products a test run, and so far so good. We suggest producers take the time to read materials from neutral sources like the University of Arkansas or Iowa State University, and articles that contain proper attribution and analysis such this article from Service Concepts.
TMP is convinced that LED lights are a smart investment for producers. Regardless, be sure to hone in on the proper LED bulb for your barn conditions by studying up first. If you have any LED bulb questions, please feel free to call on us (651-789-3330) as an information
resource. We’d be happy to – dare we say it – enlighten you.
MINNEAPOLIS – Even with the rain there were over 250 attendees AND 70 volunteers at Brake for Breakfast 2013 (after a 2 year hiatus) this morning celebrating Bike Walk Week in the Twin Cities! We biked a cumulative 2,365 miles roundtrip this morning! The Minnesota Environmental Fund, a workplace giving program for Minnesota-based environmental organizations, sponsored the event along with the tenants of the Greenway building and others (full list below). The Current (89.3) van was also there rocking the tunes!
For breakfast we served pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, Kalona Supernatural yogurt and Seven Sunday muesli, Larabars, and Peace Coffee and juice. We went through 28 dozen eggs, several boxes of pancakes, a few crockpots of oatmeal, over 300 yogurts, AND many gallons of Peace Coffee without incident! Additionally, thanks to Eureka Recycling for making this a zero-waste event.
This event is part of Bike Walk Week (www.bikewalkweek.org ) and is sponsored by Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) and Co-Sponsored by: Wellington Management, Civia, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Energy Center of Wisconsin, Envision Minnesota, Eureka Recycling, Great Plains Institute, Headwaters Foundation, Midtown Greenway Coalition, Nonprofits Assistance Fund, Peace Coffee, SOS Building Services, Inc., The Energy Conservatory, Will Steger Foundation.
Donors included: Hamden Co-op, The Hub Bike Co-op, Kalona Supernatural, Larabar, Mississippi Market, Northern Sun Merchandising, Peace Coffee, Seven Sundays, The Wedge Co-op, Kowalski’s
Vendors at the event included: Metro Transit (with their bike rack display), NiceRide Midtown Greenway Coalition, The Hub Bike Co-op with a fix it station, Beez Kneez, Full Cycle, Bicycle Alliance of MN, Minneapolis Bicycle Alliance and Minnesota Enviromental Fund (MEF)
To see tweets and photos from the event go to #Brake4Breakfast on twitter or Instagram. For more photos go to http://bit.ly/1bwchiE
The Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) is a state-wide network of Minnesota’s most respected and responsible non-profit environmental and conservation organizations working together to protect, conserve and restore Minnesota’s environment through employee giving. Joining MEF is one of the most effective ways to protect the Minnesota we know and love for future generations. http://www.mnenvirofund.org