Reduce Energy Use on the Farm

The most surefire way to save money on energy is to use less of it. Try these energy-saving tactics to reduce your farm’s energy dependency and build homestead resilience.

Photo by Shutterstock/Waidelotte 

Several years ago, as fuel prices spiked and I read that up to half the expenses of the average U.S. farm can go toward energy, I decided to see how our farm compared. Our energy usage was only 5 percent of our total expenses, and that included two delivery trucks we ran about four days a week. At the time, we determined that diesel fuel could go up to $10 a gallon and we’d still be fine. Although we still use plenty of fuel, we’re consoled knowing we’ll be the last guy standing if everything falls apart.

While this difference in percentage doesn’t necessarily translate to profitability, it certainly does reflect a degree of resiliency. Reducing energy consumption and dependency offers numerous benefits. But how do we do it? Here are some strategic protocols.

1. Reduce feedstock transportation. You should never transport bulky feeds, such as hay, to your animals; instead, transport your animals to the hay. Ideally, we feed hay proximate to where we made it.

Many years ago, we outgrew our single barn and decided to build a second one. Orthodox thinking would put the new one near the old one, clustering the farm’s infrastructure to use existing roads, water lines, and power. But on our farm, all that farmstead infrastructure isn’t centrally located. As a result, we built the new barn toward the far end of the property.

That way, when we make hay, we have two options for storage, greatly reducing transport energy. In spring, when we spread the compost generated by that hay feeding, we have close fields to receive it. That further reduces run time.

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