We put our love for the land and its renewable treasures ahead of convenience and a fast profit. As a farm family, we have always been close to the land and perhaps understand it at a deeper level than most.
Thirty years ago, we took a strong environmentally-responsible approach to the use of our land. Its that same attitude that has made Cider Hill Farm the success it is today, and should help sustain that success well into the future.
Already, through the adoption of a rigorous compost program, we have increased our average soil organic matter content from 2% to 8 – 10% over the last 20 years. This provides a healthy soil capable of sustaining our crops with less fertilization and actually helps with some disease control attributes.
We have co-existed with 15 bee hives on our land for the last 20 years, which shows the level of care we take to protect our natural resources.
It is obvious the moment you arrive here that we have been putting our best foot forward in our pioneering use of alternative energy. You will see our three wind turbines, solar panel arrays totaling over 600 panels, as well as high efficiency outdoor wood boilers used to heat our greenhouses and homes. While reducing our carbon footprint, we are also working hard to find ways to keep our costs down so that we can continue to offer our products at an affordable price.
We are blessed to have stewardship of this beautiful piece of land, and we know it will care for us as long as we care for it.
We are a farm, but we’re not old-fashioned.
First of all, we love horticulture. We love to grow everything, and we especially love to grow crops in seasons that are an alternative to what would be considered their normal season.
We are also experimenting with vertical strawberry production. The system has been found on a few farms in New England, but more so in Florida. This year, we grew an ever-bearing strawberry called Seascape in this system, and picked beautiful strawberries throughout the summer and fall. This planting takes up 1/30th of an acre, where the same number of plants would require 1/3rd acre if field planted. Picking should be a breeze compared to crawling on hands and knees. Would this be something our pick your own customers would be interested in? We will try this some day.
We have a total of 4 photo voltaic systems on our farm which together have about 630 panels. These provide electricity for nearly 80% of the needs of the entire farm system, including the 5 homes on the property. We are currently planning to install one more 50 kW system which adds the benefit of a dual tracking capability which will increase it’s productivity by 25% over a fixed 50 kW system. This should bring us right to 100% self generated electricity for Cider Hill Farm!
We also have 3 10 kW wind turbines. These are proving to be less efficient at making electricity than solar, but are still an important part of our renewable energy portfolio. A dozen farms in Massachusetts followed our lead and installed turbines after our success.
Another technology we use at the farm for generating heat are biomass high efficiency wood boilers. These are 330,000 btu units that have a 90+% efficiency rating. We use all wood from the farm and heat homes and greenhouses with them. They run so cleanly that most of the time it is very difficult to tell if they are even working.
Finally, no renewable energy program is complete without a comprehensive energy conservation program. We have had a number of energy audits done on our facilities, and have made major changes in areas of lighting, insulation and refrigeration components and controls. These have had a major impact on our total energy usage to help us close the gap to becoming energy neutral.