University of Maryland Hosts Sold-Out Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference
The Agriculture and Environmental Law conference on Nov. 18 was a major success, selling out all of its available seats. The conference was hosted by the University of Maryland Agricultural Law Education Initiative (ALEI).
Topics covered at the event included storm and bay water quality, zoning compliances, the food modernization safety act and nutrient management. Alternative energy, in terms of leasing implications and how it can be integrated onto a farm, was another topic covered at the event.
One of the speakers at the conference covering this topic was Sean Jones, a third generation farmer, who had successfully integrated the use of solar panels onto his dairy farm.
“We had been looking for something to hedge our utility costs,” said Jones. “And Pennsylvania solar companies were looking at agriculture in Maryland.”
According to Jones, his farm was approached about investing in solar panels, and after doing some research, they chose to take advantage of the opportunity.
“The idea of being green is great, but it was mainly an economics decision,” he said.
Jones’ solar field is triangle shaped and 5 acres in size. It is located just outside the corner of one of his fields on unirrigated land. The panels are close to the road so that it is easier to transfer the energy they produce.
“In our case, the project worked really well, the return on our investment was very favorable,” said Jones. “I would repeat the investment if the same return was promised. Some of it was good by design, and some of it was luck.”
Luck, for Jones, was timing. The solar field was completed by 2014, when the product price of milk increased.
“The energy we need our solar field produces, which is the same amount of energy our farm uses,” said Jones “We also receive tax credits and solar renewable energy credits.”
His family started farming in New Jersey, and relocated to Kent County, Maryland in 1992. The farm has 2,400 acres total, with 1,650 acres of tillable land. The rest of the farm is made up of woodlands, facilities and manure storage.
The dairy farm has 2,700 holstein cows with over 1,200 of them in the milking herd. They are milked three times a day, and each milking session takes eight hours to complete. Cows are milked in a double 20 parallel milking parlour. It is a 24 hour operation according to Jones.
Currently, there are three generations involved on the farm, including Jones’ son, nephew, two brothers, and his parents.
“It takes a big family to run a big farm,” said Jones. The dairy farm also has a big electric bill, says Jones. This was one reason he decided to invest in solar panels.
In the future, Jones does not see himself increasing his use of solar panels, but he does have plans for his farm.
“I’m still looking to grow the business, grow the herd, grow our land,” said Jones. “We have a good system for milking cows. We are looking to an opportunity to expand and continue to invest in agriculture.”
Jones was one of several speakers at the conference. The complete agenda from the conference is available on the ALEI web site. An overview of the conference also appeared in Lancaster Farming.