Slack lauded for service to agriculture, Specca discusses agrivoltaics
PHILLIPSBURG — About 125 farmers gathered at the Harker’s Hollow Golf Club for a dinner meeting of the Warren County Board of Agriculture on Jan. 7.
Jim Bischoff, president of the Warren County Board of Agriculture and heavily involved in the Warren County Fair every August, served as emcee for the event.
“We like to keep our local farmers continuing to farm, staying involved in farming, so if you know anybody that would like to join us, please get a hold of us,” he said, noting membership in the Warren County board is close to 500 members.
“Here in Warren County, we have everything from vegetable and fruit farms, hay and grain growers, wineries, animal livestock producers, landscaping businesses, nurserymen are here, Christmas tree farmers were here tonight as well,” he said.
There was also some discussion about plans for a Warren County Museum of Agriculture, and this may come to fruition in the next few years. Such a museum could become a viable destination for tourists and educational groups, Bischoff added.
Farmer David Slack was presented with the Award for Distinguished Service and after the dinner and awards, Bischoff said he and other farmers were pleased with the healthy turnout.
Frank Van Horn presented the award to Slack and noted his involvement in local and county politics as Mayor of Pohatcong Township.
Slack and his family operate a 328-acre grain, hay and beef cattle farm that spans Greenwich and Pohatcong townships.
In receiving his award, Slack said, “It’s been many years since I was first asked to serve on this Board of Agriculture, but at that time, it was not a hard decision. I always tell other farmers, in order to make a difference, you need to be involved. I have enjoyed my many years on this board serving our Ag community and I look forward to many more. Thank you for this award, it is truly a great honor.”
David Specca, an assistant director at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Columbus talked about agri-voltaic panels to reduce electricity bills on farms.
“Some of you may have been approached by solar developers already,” Specca said at the outset. “It’s important you understand what [agri-voltaics] is, and some of the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.”
In recent years, panels were set up at various research facilities operated by Rutgers, including RAREC, Rutgers Agricultural Research and Education Center in Bridgeton, the animal farm off College Farm Road in New Brunswick and Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown.
“Agrivoltaics combines agriculture and solar power generation on the same land, it’s not one sided, and it maintains agriculture as the main focus of the land use,” Specca said. “It’s the opposite of a solar farm. These systems are designed to improve the agricultural productivity of the land, and in doing so the design is a little different, as these panels can be combined with both animal and plant production and any yield losses from crops can be offset by income to the farmer by electricity produced from the panels.”
Specca presented research results from three farms owned and operated by Rutgers that are equipped with hundreds of panels to test the efficiency of various types of operations and various types of panel configurations.
Specca and others involved with the research project think income from electricity sales generated by the panels should be pretty stable from one year to the next.
“They can create a little stream of income for the farmers and the income from year to year should be pretty reliable from one year to the next,” Specca said, noting two types of agri-voltaic panel systems are being tested at Rutgers-owned farms.
“Having grown up on a farm, I know that there’s often a variety of crops that we’re switching in and out, and we’re often moving back and forth from animals to crop production. We want to make sure whatever system we selected, it would not lock you into any type of agriculture in coming years. It needs to be flexible enough so that 20 or 30 years down the road when these systems are still in the field, you can do different types of agriculture with them.”