The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

September 12, 2013

Harvesting energy

FAIRFIELD — A dairy operation in Jefferson County can teach the public that it's possible to use renewable energy and be successful farmers.

"We need to be thinking about our energy future," said Francis Thicke, who operates Radiance Dairy near Fairfield with his wife, Susan. "Agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels, and they are getting [scarcer and] dirtier to remove from the Earth, so we need to find renewable sources of energy. The more we begin to use them, the more they'll become cost competitive. Prices have come down tremendously. And they'll continue to come down."

Radiance has multiple renewable sources. They'll show these alternative energy options during a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at their farm, 1745 Brookville Road, about five miles northwest of Fairfield.

The event, “Harvesting Energy: Wind and Solar Power,” is free and open to the public.

Attendees will explore how Radiance Dairy harvests alternative energy. They have a 40 kilowatt wind turbine which, "on an annual basis will produce as much electricity as we use on the farm," Thicke said. "I think we need to keep pushing that technology."

At more than 100 feet tall, it also makes a good landmark for people driving along Brookville Road looking for Radiance Dairy.

But it's not their only way to save energy. They have solar-thermal hot water heater, solar-powered pumping system for livestock watering and geothermal heating and cooling system. Plus, they graze their cows, so the cows harvest their own forage.

"Different kinds of systems can fill different niches," Thicke said.

For example, pumping the water from the pond for the cows is done with solar, which is "a very dependable" system, he said. Radiance has had that system for 10 years.

"We probably did it on principal, but they all pay for themselves over time," he said.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 field day season features more than 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. For the entire field day schedule, visit www.practicalfarmers.org.

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