For more than 150 years Knowlton Family Farms in Grafton, Massachusetts has been a family-owned operation. It’s grown and shrunk over the years, and now is back in a period of expansion thanks to combining solar energy production with agriculture.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) AgriSolar Clearinghouse today released its short film “The Cows Come Home,” which shows viewers how the Knowlton family has been able to reintroduce cattle to their farm. Owner Paul Knowlton says the last of their dairy cows were sold in 1995, and now they’ve been able to bring cattle back to the farm to graze among solar panels.
“We really wanted to try to do something different, and we made it happen, it’s a reality, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” Paul Knowlton said. “It was designed with the cows in mind, vegetables in mind, and also we can put a variety of different animals in here for grazing. They [the cows] took to it like fish to water.”
AgriSolar or agrivoltaic partnerships are growing across solar-appropriate farmland in the U.S., providing a new revenue source for farmers, clean energy for surrounding communities, and myriad benefits to crops, livestock, and pollinators.
Knowlton says agrisolar is what has allowed his farm to remain a viable family business.
“Nationwide, this could be a new standard,” Knowlton adds. “The idea of year-round revenue is really, really important. Having a farm that has the ability to survive is just so important. This is a way to keep the farmland going.”
NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse is connecting businesses, land managers, and researchers with trusted resources to support the growth of co-located solar and sustainable agriculture.
“AgriSolar partnerships are helping to keep family farms in family hands,” said NCAT Energy Director Stacie Peterson, PhD. “We can maximize finite resources for the benefit of communities, the environment, and businesses when agriculture and energy come together.”