Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What is Cow Power?

New Eastern States Exposition logo
Last week, Eastern States Exposition held its Annual Meeting in Storrowton’s Carriage House. It was a day packed with special announcements, a look at what’s in store for 2014 and a celebration of the Exposition’s accomplishments this past year.

The day’s events included an early morning press conference, trustee meeting, luncheon (provided by the wonderful staff at Storrowton Tavern) and the presentation of the Agricultural Adventurers Award. During the press conference, we announced the Exposition’s regional economic impact of an astonishing $479 million and officially unveiled the new Eastern States Exposition logo!

During the luncheon, the prestigious Agricultural Adventurers Award was presented to the Audet Family’s Blue Spruce Farm, located in Bridport, Vermont.

Dick Nickless, Chairman of the Agricultural Adventurers Committee, introduced the recipients. “You’ve heard me say many times that the Agricultural Adventurers Award is for innovation and pioneering, with the recipients having made significant contributions to the agricultural revolution,” Dick said. “The award winners this year have even surpassed these goals. The farm, has been, and is now, extremely entrepreneurial and has never seen nor heard of an idea they haven’t explored,” he said.

Blue Spruce Farm is committed to experimenting with renewable energy and best known for pioneering “Cow Power.” The farm also supplies Cabot Creamery with milk to make Cabot cheddar cheese – about 100,000 pounds of milk every day. The Audets even brought us some samples of Cabot cheese. It was delicious.

Now, what is Cow Power? Basically the entire farm and about 400 homes in the community are run by electricity generated from cow manure. It’s pretty cool process. All manure from the farm is collected and pumped into two 14-foot deep, 600,000 gallon “bio-digesters.” The naturally occurring methane gases collect at the top. That methane gas is then used to power generators that push enough electricity into the grid for hundreds of homes in the community.

In addition to cow power, the farm has a wind turbine that generates 165,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year – about enough to power 25 homes – and will host a 2 megawatt solar farm on their land this fall.

Impressive, huh? And this explanation is only scratching the surface of the Audet’s eco-friendly operation. I also haven’t mentioned that this is a multi-generational family business. Out of the 25 employees on the farm, 12 of them are Audets.

From left: ESE President & CEO Eugene J. Cassidy,
Eugene, Marie and Norman Audet, and
ESE Chairman of the Board, Donald R. Chase.

“This is really a story about family,” Marie Audet said upon accepting the award. “It’s about the strength of family and character that was instilled from early on and its fearlessness and making good choices and seeing them through.”

The more we can share, the more people understand that farming is still hard work. Maybe we don’t do it perfectly, but we are doing it better, and the more we know, the more we do. We’re evolving like the rest of society and we are doing a much better job of feeding people a sustainable food,” she said.

When asked what made Blue Spruce Farm stand out, Dick said, “Everything, everything! They have been so entrepreneurial and so innovative and they haven’t seen any research that they haven’t played with. They even work with algae for making diesel fuel. They’re taking some left-overs from today to put through the digester and make electricity. It’s just a terrific farm.”

The Audets are clearly leaders in the agricultural revolution with renewable energy and have since inspired other Vermont dairy businesses to do the same. Vermont now has 17 dairy farms utilizing bio-digesters, giving the state more digesters per capita than any other in the US.

“We’re really proud to be dairy producers,” Marie said. “Dairy is one of those foods that’s going to be there in the future to feed a growing population. It can be produced in a way that is good for the planet, for the community – we provide jobs – and it’s a good family thing to do.”

On behalf of the Exposition, congratulations to the Audet family! There could not be a more deserving recipient of this award. We look forward to seeing your future research in renewable energy!

Want to learn more about Cow Power? Check out our press release and their website!
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