Holiday Farm: In Harmony with Nature
Solar Electric System
“It’s a good feeling to be leaving the land in the same or better condition than we found it.”
Berlin shop-owner, farmer and artist Suzanna Roberts is an architect by training, whose thesis was on self-sustaining neighborhoods. “When it came time to build my parents’ new house, there was no question it would be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly,” she says.
During construction, measures including a warm roof system, organic icynene insulation, and rigid foam insulation increased the home’s energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. The house is heated and cooled with a geothermal system, augmented by a pellet stove in winter. And the electricity to power the geothermal and everyday needs comes from solar. “We felt the argument that heat powered by electricity is inefficient didn’t apply since the electricity comes directly from the sun,” Suzanna says, citing an increasingly common belief.
A 6,560-watt solar electric system situated on their horse barn covers between a third and virtually all of their electricity needs in any given month. “We’ve seen electric bills as low as $4, which is a great thing to see,” says Sue’s mother, Pat. In the four years since turning their system on, solar has made them almost 32,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy, 2,000 watts above projections. This offsets 22.6 metric tons of CO2, and is like taking 4.7 cars off the road.
The Roberts’ environmental commitment carries over to the management of their farm, where they avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers. “The chickens are great pest control and the horses prolific fertilizer producers,” Sue jokes.
They re-use everything possible at Holiday Farm: grain bags, pellet and shavings bags, and baling twine. Food leftovers and damaged veggies feed the farm animals. “It’s a good feeling to be leaving the land in the same or better condition than we found it. The farm stand and farm are hard work but, at the end of the day, the satisfaction of doing our part to keep the planet green, along with a good cuke, makes it all worth it,” Pat says.
Meanwhile, what started as a lark – a way to make good use of extra vegetables from Pat’s garden – has evolved into a full-fledged business as the interest in locally grown food increases. Today, the Holiday Farm Farmstand sells organic veggies, berries and herbs, eggs from their free-range chickens, and wood pellets for home heating and livestock bedding, which compost faster than shavings. Also for sale are Pat’s handmade Nantucket baskets, Suzanna’s original art, and their homemade jams, jellies, soaps, lotions and lip balms.
In early 2018, the family-owned farm installed a 10.8-kW solar energy system on its huge hay barn, further reducing its carbon footprint. A USDA grant program for agricultural businesses helped defray the cost, making it even easier for them to make their own clean electricity, reduce their energy costs, and help the planet.