Three farm demonstration projects have won grants to work on ways to make farm activities more energy efficient. Carol Yates of the University of Northern Iowa is working with the farmers through what’s called the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group.

“The Farm Energy Working Group is a statewide organization of people interested in helping farmers on small to mid-sized operations find new ways to reduce their energy use and try to change from fossil fuel use to other ways of making energy on the farm,” Yates says. “And if those ways can come from resources on the farm, that’s even better.”

Yates works at the UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education and says the alternative energy can come from all types of sources, including solar panels and windmills. One of the projects involves a farmer near Coralville adapting an electric sickle mower to be used with his electric tractor.

“Some other farmers who are in western Iowa are going to install some LED lights in their new energy-efficient dairy processing building. And those are the new very efficient lights that use about 75 to 80-percent less energy,” Yates explains. Tom and Janna Feldman will install those lights at “Doe’s and Diva’s Dairy” in Honey Creek.

The third demonstration project also involves dairy farming. “A dairy foundation near Calmar is going to install two robotic milking systems for some of the cows that it has there,” Yates says.

“And this will be used as a demonstration to educate farmers on the best practices in dairy operations. And they are going to collect data usage to show — we hope — that these robotic milkers reduce the use of energy and water.” The end goal is to come up with ways to reduce energy use on the farm that can be shared.

“These are farm-scale kinds of ideas, and we are very interested in sharing the results with other farmers,” Yates says. She says they share the information in a variety of ways from reports on the data, to presentations by the farmers, to field trips, with the idea that the demonstrations will show ways other farmers can incorporate what they’ve learned in their operations.

The projects are funded through the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture  at Iowa State University. The Iowa Farm Energy Working Group includes farmers and representatives from agriculture, policy, higher education, utilities and farm organizations.

For more information on the group, visit: