An Alternative Solution

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“Going green” is the catch phrase for home owners, business owners, farm owners and stable owners alike. Sustainable practices are becoming widespread making it is easier and more affordable for stable owners to incorporate environmentally friendly strategies into their barns.

In its simplest form, “going green” begins with Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Buying supplies, such as feed and shavings in bulk, reduces the amount of packaging thrown away. Reusing empty containers to create storage or repairing torn blankets and wraps, provides a second use for products. Recycling goes beyond the plastics and papers picked up at the curb, and can include lumber used for repairs or the composting of manure.

While implementing sustainable practices is easier today than it was several years ago, stable owners ready to take the next step may need help deciding on the most practical and affordable options for their stable.

University Sponsored Cooperative Extensions

University sponsored Cooperative Extensions provide guidance for stable owners looking for information about green energy practices.

In New Jersey, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension works closely with equestrian facilities, specifically in regards to storm water management. Equine facilities in New Jersey are especially concerned with storm water runoff because of state regulations that point to runoff from horse farms as carrying pathogens and nutrients into streams and lakes and impairing the health of those water systems.

Rutgers Cooperative extension educates stable owners about the use of rain gardens to filter and treat storm water before it re-enters into streams and waterways. The Cooperative Extension hosts hands-on training days and uses sites like the Rutgers University Equine Science Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to demonstrate the role a rain garden has in capturing and treating storm water runoff from paddocks.

A rain garden is a 200- to 300-square-foot depression made in the ground and is filled with native plants. Excess water is directed to the rain garden where it sits for a day while the plants soak it in, filter it and return it to underground water sources. Plant type and selection is key here and native plants are the best option because they will survive well without a lot of maintenance. Most importantly, be sure the plants selected are not toxic to horses.” Check out http://stablemanagement.com/articles/rain-go-this-way/ for more information.

Cornell University in New York sponsors “Program Work Teams” (PWT) dedicated to specific topic areas. One PWT is the “Managing Wastes: Composting and Land Application,” which encourages and provides education on composting.

Today, composting is more than a process of breaking down manure. Dairy farms in particular have learned the value of harnessing the energy available in the breakdown of manure. Horse stables too, can benefit from carefully planned on-site composting.

Agrilab Technologies (http://www.agrilabtech.com/), a participant in the PWT, has designed a system for a 45-horse stable in Connecticut. The stable includes a covered composting pad with aeration channels built into the concrete pad.

The aeration channels pull heat out of the composting manure and direct it to insulated storage sites. At this stable, the captured heat is being used in a greenhouse on the same property, but for farms without a greenhouse, the heat from composting manure can be used to heat water in the barn or to provide heat to offices or viewing areas.

Properly composted manure can even be used in place of fertilizer to restore nutrients to the soil or become a revenue source by selling compost to landscapers and gardeners. For more on composting, check out this article: http://stablemanagement.com/articles/consider-composting.

Searching For Funding

Searching for grants takes creativity. While solar energy and wind systems are the most talked about types of funded green initiatives, it is important to remember that other sustainability practices may be funded as well. For example, financial support may be available for the management of storm water runoff, land conservation or manure handling.

Federal grants available through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) provide money that enables small farmers to develop bio-fuel refineries and other alternative energy projects such as solar and wind energy farms.

Much of the funding is administered through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Some funding packages are aimed at public energy producers or government agencies, others are for farmers and ranchers who want to develop their own alternative energy operations. (See the list at the end of this article for web addresses to this and many other programs.)

State agencies also provide funding for conservation efforts, most recently specifically for the installation of alternative energy sources. Solar and wind are the two most common systems, but funding for other systems is also available.

Navigating a state’s energy website, specifically as it relates to grants or rebates can be cumbersome, so take your time and be patient. In many cases, to be eligible for funding, you will be required to work with an approved contractor. Working with a contractor approved by the state organization can expedite and simplify the process. (See the list at the end of this article for several sample state websites and tips on finding the right agency for your needs.)

Learn As Much As Possible

In order to make the right decision for your stable, learn as much as you can about a variety of sustainable practices. The size and location of your stable will determine which practices are the best fit for your barn.

With the increased popularity of renewable energy sources, educational events, tradeshows and hands-on product demonstrations provide countless opportunities to meet with contractors that install renewable energy systems and to learn what type of system may be right for their own stable. And check out this article from the Stable Management archives for more information on green initiatives and products: http://stablemanagement.com/articles/green-building/.

For More Information

The following is just a sample of a few state programs. Visit the Federal Grant Page or the SBA Energy Efficiency page to find a program in your state.

Tips For Finding The Right Agency For Your Needs

Navigating state and federal websites to identify rebates or grants available can be overwhelming.

  • Contact your local Cooperative Extension Office and ask about agricultural enterprises in your area that are using renewable/alternative energy sources.
  • Talk to farm owners of all types and ask what green initiatives they are using on their farm and if/how they received funding to do so.
  • Attend local home shows. These mid-winter, early spring events often include energy efficiency and green initiatives as they relate to a home; however, in some instances the technology being discussed could be incorporated in a barn.
  • Identify local businesses that install solar, wind or other renewable energy products. Ask the business owners about rebates or grants that are available.