Panning for Gold in the Waste Stream: Vanguard Renewables helps farmers harvest energy from their by-products

By Michael Floreak  | Photos by Michael Piazza

When Randy Jordan takes part in his local Fourth of July parade these days, he no longer worries about neighbors turning their noses up at him. In the past, they had their reasons. Early July is when Jordan, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, fertilizes the fields of his family’s farms in Spencer and Rutland. For many years, the fertilizer he spread across hundreds of acres was manure from the farms’ lagoons. The olfactory reminder hung in the air longer than any fireworks display.

Jordan still treats his fields at the same time of year and he still uses fertilizer produced on the farm, but without the smell. It’s a win for the neighbors, but an even bigger win for the economic health of the farm and for the environment.

In 2011, Jordan Dairy Farms’ Rutland location became the first farm in New England to host a large-scale anaerobic digester. Anerobic digestion is a process that converts organic materials from food waste and livestock manure into bio-gas that can be used as a renewable energy source. At Jordan’s, the manure is provided by hundreds of dairy cattle, and the food waste comes from large commercial producers like Gorton’s Seafood, Cape Cod Potato Chips and Cabot Cheese. When the anaerobic microbes are done digesting sugars, fats and other compounds from these organic materials, the farm receives heat and electricity. The digestion process also produces clean solids that are used as bedding for the farm’s cattle. Finally, it produces the rich, odorless, liquid fertilizer that Jordan now applies to his fields.

Read More