Seven Springs Speaker Spotlight: John Ivanko, Renewable Energy Specialist

Reader Contribution by Erica Binns
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Get to know John Ivanko, co-author of Farmstead Chef, ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance.

What are you going to speak about at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR?

I’ll be talking about powering your homestead with renewable energy. From wind energy to photovoltaics, solar thermal to geothermal systems, from all-electric CitiCars recharged with off-grid PV systems to firing up your tractor with home-made biodiesel (made with waste fryer oil), there’s an abundance of ways to reclaim control over the energy you need to make your home or business go. Without getting too technical, I’ll talk about inverters and grid-tied systems, living without a clothes dryer and using a solar oven and woodstove cooktop to prepare our meals which I also write about in my new cookbook, Farmstead Chef, which will be launched at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.

Besides the renewable energy systems themselves, I’ll also address the importance of energy efficiency and conservation as the first steps before embarking on the larger investments in renewable energy systems. With many state and federal programs still around, at least for now, the time is right to declare energy independence: not from overseas imported oil, but from fossil fuels altogether.

If you want to get your electric utility to start paying you instead of you paying the corporation, you’ll get a lot out my presentation, since my wife and I have turned energy into a positive cash flow for our business, Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast and Farm.

What are you most looking forward to sharing with FAIR attendees?

Peak oil, climate change, debt and ecological collapse all point to opportunities for us to reclaim our self-reliance, community, food security and energy independence. The “doom and gloom-ers” often complain on the sidelines. FAIR attendees and MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers are adapting, making the necessary changes we, as a nation, need to be making, and having fun doing so. Sure, it’s hard work and demands mindful investments, but it’s so satisfying to see the wind turbine spinning and our electricity meter spinning backwards!

From living sustainably and powering the homestead with renewable energy, with many of us eager to experience the “rural renaissance” we write about, to eating more from our backyard, rooftop or half-acre sized gardens or growing fields and preparing fresh seasonal meals in your farmstead kitchen, freedom comes with greater self-reliance and stronger community interdependencies and relationships. Freedom, we’ve found, doesn’t come with the size of bank account or the insane number of food choices in a big-box supermarket.

Tell us about your background with your particular topic.

Over the past 15 years, my wife, Lisa Kivirist, and I have largely been able to sever our dependency on fossil fuels. We set out to go fossil fuel free on our farm and Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast. With a 10kW Bergey wind turbine, 680 Watt photovoltaic system, two solar thermal systems, an off-grid photovoltaic system and even an all-electric CitiCar (for local commuting), our steady investments in renewable energy systems have paid off. Now we over-produce about 2,000 to 4,000 kWhs a year of electricity and get paid by our utility company.

Why should fairgoers attend your presentation?

To see an example of how two suburban-raised, non-tinkering types can make renewable energy work despite very limited financial resources. The key is taking advantage of state or federal programs, running a small business (see our book ECOpreneuring for more details) and line-drying your laundry. We don’t wear much in the summer and layer up on clothes in the winter. If we can do it, so can you.

How will you get to the FAIR, and how far do you have to travel?

We’re coming from Wisconsin, so biking to the event was out of the question. We ended up flying, but off-set our emissions through the For more about how we offset our carbon emissions, click this link.

What are you most looking forward to at the FAIR?

Meeting with the enthusiastic, engaged and inspiring attendees. We often leave with pages of notes for new places to visit, new innovations underway and a sense that the movement afoot is growing by leaps and bounds, even if it doesn’t make it on Fox News.

What advice do you have for attendees?

Take some of the speakers you’re interested in out to lunch or dinner at the Fair and sit down with them, informally, and take advantage of their expertise that comes from real life experiences, not an academic study or a journalistic research project. The speakers at the Fair are at the forefront of the most pressing issues of our day, solving them daily rather than posturing or dithering like many in public office. They walk their talk.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only one thing, what would you choose?

A soul mate and life partner. In my case, my wife, Lisa Kivirist, who is a muffin baker, mother, parent, lover, mochaccino or daiquiri maker (see Farmstead Chef), homesteader, ecotourist, co-author and hot spring soaker.

Thanks, John. We’ll see you at the FAIR!

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa. FAIR September 24-25, and upcoming FAIRs in other locations. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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