Local and Sustainable

With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s a perfect time to share a few approaches that Minnesota Grown members take to sustain the environment. Their efforts and farming practices promote water quality, energy savings, carbon emission reduction, and soil improvements.

Solar Energy

Solar panels produce electricity to power electronic equipment such as fans, pumps, or lights using the sun’s energy. Growers integrate solar energy for their greenhouses to reduce carbon emissions while providing a reliable source of power. Depending on size of the greenhouse, solar panels are placed either on the roof or mounted on the ground.

Shayne Johnson of Grampa G’s farm utilizes solar panels on his greenhouse.

“Over the last four years, we have utilized two solar panels to heat the ground of our greenhouse, which had enabled us to begin production a month earlier every year,” he informed us. “Environmentally, we have probably reduced the cost of burning propane and other fuels by 75-80 percent. Utilizing the sun's energy to heat the earth below our vegetables maintains constant ground temperatures, which helps regulate the greenhouse environment.”

You can learn more about solar industry installation from the  Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Additionally, the Minnesota Commence Department  provides information and statistics on the solar industry as a whole.

Composting

Composting is a microbial process that is used as organic soil amendments. Composting is made from organic materials such as foods, grass clippings, or leaves. The benefits of composting are to improve soil health, physical properties, and nutrient availability, while maintaining soil temperatures, pH, and moisture. Heidi Heiland of Heidi’s GrowHaus emphasized to use “copious amounts of compost that is chemical-free (or recognize the additives)” to your garden bed.

“Your compost choice will vary based on your soil type and your budget,” she explained. “We [Heidi’s GrowHaus] offer a compost liquid tea that can be spread through a water bucket or a spray-on hose. Sold by the growler, this tea has living anaerobic organisms and does not have a shelf life. However, we hope that you can see troubled soil-type areas, transplanted plants, or shrubs respond to this cost-effective compost method and flourish.”

Interested in composting at home? The University of Minnesota offers design resources  for backyard composting.

Rotational Grazing

Through proper grazing management, producers can improve soil conditions and increase grazing time. We talked with Andrew from Pastures A Plenty Co & Farm about their rotational grazing program for their beef operation.

“Rotational grazing allows the grass to grow much taller before it gets eaten down. It has extended our grazing program,” he noted. “In the summer, we have found that the microbes in the soil are much stronger, breaking down organic matter and increasing yield. The nutrients [in the soil] become more readily available.”

Conservation awards

Minnesota Grown members Homeplace Beef Organic Farm, Pettit Pastures, and Roots Return Heritage Farm were recognized for their conservation efforts. Every year the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation District honors an individual or conservation organization with the “Outstanding Conservationist” award. Selected by the MASWCD, this award recognizes the recipient for their work and accomplishments implementing conservation practices. Click the following links to read the full description of their efforts: Homeplace Beef Organic FarmPettit Pastures, and Roots Return Heritage Farm.

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