Congressman McGovern Tours Bar-Way Farm Farm Powered Anaerobic Digester Project
Credit: Mary Serreze, Special to The Republican, September 1, 2016
Congressman Jim McGovern toured Western Massachusetts farms this week Including Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield to gather information that will help him when hearings begin next year in Washington to re-authorize the federal farm bill. Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield is building a methane digester that will consume 25 tons of manure and 45 tons of food waste every day to produce electricity. Development partner Vanguard Renewables will sell the power to the grid, and benefit from renewable energy credits. The farm will heat its buildings with the waste heat, and receive nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer and compost.The facility is expected to cut farm production costs by about 15 percent, said Peter Melnick, who keeps 500 milking cows at his Mill Village Road family farm. The digester will also reduce the farm’s carbon footprint by 85 percent. The $4 million plant benefited from a $400,000 grant from the the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and a $335,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The Melnicks have always been at the forefront of innovation,” McGovern said.
McGovern, flanked by state and federal agriculture officials, heard about the difficulty niche farmers face in accessing crop insurance, about soaring costs and low milk prices for dairy farmers, and problems retaining a reliable labor force during harvest time on a wholesale vegetable farm.
At the same time, he witnessed a stunning level of creativity, and saw farmers who are making the business model work in a brave new world.