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Skaneateles-area farmers discuss renewable energy at agricultural program meeting

Mike McMahon (second from left), of E-Z Acres dairy farm, is awarded the 2013 Environmental Steward Award. E-Z Acres, located in Homer, has participated in the watershed program and United State Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs since 1998. “There is no greater reward than to be recognized by your peers,” McMahon said after thanking the room for honoring him. “We do these things because it’s the right thing to do, not for the accolades,” he said.

Mike McMahon (second from left), of E-Z Acres dairy farm, is awarded the 2013 Environmental Steward Award. E-Z Acres, located in Homer, has participated in the watershed program and United State Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs since 1998. “There is no greater reward than to be recognized by your peers,” McMahon said after thanking the room for honoring him. “We do these things because it’s the right thing to do, not for the accolades,” he said.

The Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program held its annual meeting on Dec. 9 at the First Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles.

The event included an annual report from Mark Burger, the Onondaga County Soil and Water District executive director, a panel on renewable energy and the presentation of the 2013 Environmental Steward Award to Mike McMahon of E-Z Acres farm in Homer.

Burger spoke about the activities and projects of the agricultural program from the past year including assisting farms with stream bed stabilization, crop diversions and helping write grants for grazing manure and soil management projects.

The soil and water district wrote $148,785 in grants money this year, Burger said.

The agricultural program is a voluntary program for farms in the Skaneateles Lake watershed. The stated purpose of the program is to assist and provide resources to farms, particularly to help them prevent soil erosion and keep pollutants out of the lake. Forty-two of 52 farms in the watershed participate, while an additional four self-implement the program’s standards.

Renewable energy discussions

A number of local farmers each gave a short presentation and took questions from the audience on different types of renewable energy options that are available to farms in the area.

Dirk Young, of Twin Birch Dairy in Skaneateles, and Bill Head, who owns a dairy farm near Homer, both spoke about their anaerobic digesters. The digester is a system that further breaks down manure, which is rich in methane gas, to produce biofuel which can be burned in a micro-turbine to generate electricity.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s just a continuation of the cow’s stomach,” Young said. “When she expels it there is still a lot of energy left in that manure.”

Both Young and Head said that using the digester systems helps them to be a better neighbor because it cuts down on odors from manure.

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