A Happy Ending

This blog post was cross-posted with permission from Featherstone Farm

No, it’s not Cinderella’s foot fitting in the slipper.  It’s not Sleeping Beauty waking from her Prince’s kiss.  It is however something akin to the tortoise finishing the race.  And Friday’s event was a beautiful finish line to a long, sluggish run.  

After the nearly catastrophic flood of 2007-2008, Jack Hedin began putting the pieces together:  large dramatic weather patterns equal climate change taking full force on our state, our nation, our world.  What it meant personally for Jack and Jenni was their farm nearly destroyed by this kind of weather.  As John Muir has wisely said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe”.  

As any person might rightly conclude, Jack assessed how he and his farm (his livelihood) could move toward a better solution, knowing that things needed to change.  Doing the math backwards as it were, climate change is intricately linked to energy use: burning fossil fuels, natural gas use, carbon – you know all this.  The operations on the farm required loads of these materials to be burned in order to run mechanisms from the massive cooler spaces to keep vegetables at the right temperature, run the tractors, keep the lights on in the office, and even yes, down to the ever critical coffee maker to keep people’s eyes open (farm work is endless).
Turning off half the cooler was not an option, nor was running only one of the ten tractors. 

What was an option however was an ancient energy source that was older than fossil fuels, far cleaner, and to some extent: free.  It was accessing the sun that was the issue at hand.  Enter Sharann Watson – a long time shareholder and advocate of Featherstone.   By the force of her own energy to rally shareholders, community members and others, after long hours of grant writing, phone calls and the like, Featherstone farm was able to install a massive solar structure on the roof of one of its buildings.  These panels provide over sixty percent of the energy needed for the farm’s operations.  Goodbye coal, goodbye gas.  Hello new era.  

With the blood, sweat and tears behind us, we decided it was time to celebrate.  Friday, May 4th served that purpose with a gathering both to talk policy and have a party.  Congressman Tim Walz and his staff first joined us in the morning to tour the farm and meet us – those he represents – to discuss ways to expand the efforts of Sharann, Jack and the rest of the Featherstone team by creating our own energy in Minnesota and not using imported oil.  Alternative energy, accompanied by imagination and action can have incredible results in our state, as well as build our communities and employment rates.  Walz is behind all this, and inspired us with this vision.  

The party side of things was to thank our investors; the people who believed in big change and big vision.  They supported the farm and the solar installation from the beginning, and this was our opportunity to humbly give our appreciation in the form of spinach salad with caramelized pecans, deviled eggs, steamed asparagus, and freshly baked bread.   Good food goes a long way in saying thanks.  

So the tortoise has broken the tape across the finish line and, sweating and tired, come out a champion.  Now the question remains, what’s the next race?  

– Katie 

Featherstone again wishes to thank all of those who believed in a better future for us and contributed to this substantial project to make the farm a more sustainable place.  To see another article about the solar panels, visit a recent publication in The Mix by Jenni McHugh.

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