Center Ahead of the Curve on Energy and Climate Issues

I always knew the Center for Rural Affairs is on the cutting-edge of issues that matter to rural and small-town people. But, on issues of climate and renewable energy, the Center was way ahead of the curve. Recently, I came across a bound copy of the Small Farm Energy Primer, an initiative to help farmers save money by lowering energy costs.

Leafing through the deep-red book, I found detailed instructions on alternative energy production and energy-saving techniques using materials from wood to compost. The project was initiated in 1976 with groundbreaking work in practical on-farm research. The goal? “Energy self-sufficient farms as the future of agriculture.”

Over the course of three years, 48 participating farms helped demonstrate the benefits of small-scale alternative energy. Half of these farms made improvements, while the other 24 continued operating as they had been.

The project culminated in a report using the detailed findings of both groups. The Small Farm Energy Primer found that farmers could save money and conserve energy using low-cost, easy to maintain systems including solar, passive systems, wood and alcohol energy.

The Small Farm Energy Project taught people that despite world events (like the Oil Crisis), they could control a portion of their businesses and their lives. The process of learning, doing, and public demonstrations formed leaders who helped build the national sustainable agriculture movement.

In 2001, the Center formed the Climate Change Task Force to review information about the potential for climate change, its probable causes and likely effects on agriculture, and how agriculture might contribute to solutions.

The rural people selected to serve on the task force were approached to serve because they were informed citizens, but not climate experts. The task force explored contributors to climate change from lack of energy efficiency to soil tillage and ultimately found that “prudent actions available to policy makers now can affect change that is beneficial for the future.”

Now, 14 years later, we wholeheartedly agree. And we're making this is our #tbt post!

Feature image: Henry Glover, Rudolph Buntzel and Gary Anderson chat during a meeting for the Small Farm Energy Project hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs (circa 1975).