Solar Farming Really is Farming!
Why do I farm? That is always the question that I look forward to answering when I leave my Hoosier Homestead farm to travel across the state. The word “farm” evokes a cascade of oversimplified assumptions by those who ask.
My response to the “why do I farm?” is rooted in three ideals: providing, sustaining and preserving.
Providing – Farmers for generations have cared for the land in order to provide for others. For most farmers, that means growing crops and providing food and sustenance. However, it could mean crops for feed, fiber, or fuel – including crops for energy. And now today, it could be capturing the wind or sun and helping provide energy to power homes, businesses and more. Whatever we are doing with the land, the most important aspect is utilizing the natural resources to provide for others.
Sustainability – Whether it’s rotating crops, using the right fertilizer, resting the land, or utilizing some of it for harnessing the wind or sun, the end goal is to sustain the land for the next generation.
Utilizing the land in a manner that preserves the soil quality with select plantings and minimal commercial fertilizer applications have positive effects that allow a solar project to restore the soil for future agricultural uses.
Totally contrary to what a small group of people opposed to renewable energy projects says, solar energy utilizes only a small fraction of our Indiana farmland. But with renewable projects, the new crop pays well and with little to no risk, and it is a sustainable practice. Utilizing the land in a manner that preserves the soil quality with select plantings and minimal commercial fertilizer applications have positive effects that allow a solar project to restore the soil for future agricultural uses. Additionally, water runoff and water quality are not compromised by solar projects. The simple fact is that the vegetative cover of a solar project leaves almost no bare soil and uses little to no water.
Preservation – Because the land will be passed on to future generations, preserving the land for use that spans generations is paramount. We farmers understand that the land is our economic lifeline. It’s how we support our families. In order to maintain our agricultural heritage, a lifelong commitment must be made to pay the taxes and preserve and improve the quality of the land. All of that has to be done while adapting to the ever-changing face of agriculture. This has almost always been a function of reacting to market forces that drive what we can efficiently and profitably produce. Thankfully, now there are new options for Indiana farmers to preserve the land by farming new crops – the wind and the sun.
Throughout the useful life of wind and solar projects, the land will be preserved and sustained while generating an energy crop. Then, the farmer can decide how best to use the land for the next generation while continuing to provide for the greatest needs of others.