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Olwen Solar Garage
A new structure on the Green Mountain College campus built by students will serve as a solar power station for an electric vehicle. On December 14 students will formally unveiled the Olwen Solar Garage, sited next to the Solar Harvest Center on campus. (The garage was named for the Welsh goddess of the sun). Built by students in the first Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) block course, Olwen features a 3.8 kilowatt roof-mounted array and a twenty-four foot long fiberglass south-facing wall suitable for germination of crops for the school’s farm. The garage will house an electric vehicle to be used by the College. The building itself is a mini power plant, which consumes the power it produces while providing a platform for sustainable food production. Inside, the building is spacious and bright, with large windows and application of day lighting strategies. A workspace is nestled against the west wall, with a charming view of the crescent-shaped Rainbow Acre out the corner window. “Aesthetics were an important consideration in the design,” said Courtney Heverly, a student who completed the course. “We feel we’ve created a structure that’s interesting on its own terms, but it also provides a function—powering a vehicle that can rely on its own energy source instead of being dependent on the power grid like most electric cars.” GMC received a $50,000 grant from Constellation Energy’s “E2 Energy to Educate”
program to build Olwen.
Lawn-to-Edible Garden Project Unveiled
Green Mountain College has moved the traditional home vegetable garden—often relegated to the backyard—in front of the Solar Harvest Center (SHC), a farmhouse purchased by the College in 2009. With the support of several grants, students and faculty recently completed the Lawn-to-Edible Garden Project which converted the SHC front lawn into a permaculture landscape of vegetables and perennial fruits. Lettuce, peppers, onions, tomatoes and many other vegetables grown in the 12 new raised beds will find their way to the plates of students studying in the current Summer Farm Intensive Program on campus, and on the shelves of local food pantries. Blueberries, grapes, elderberries, and other small fruits diversify the offerings in coming years. The entire installation was completed by students taking a semester-long Edible Landscaping course in a culminating week of construction and planting. "Edible gardens can be visually appealing, a lot more interesting than grass,” said Philip Ackerman-Leist, director of the College's Farm & Food Project. “Putting the garden out front also makes a statement about the centrality of food in the community. We’re interested in sharing what we know about growing and preparing healthy food with local residents—we like learning from their experience as well. We see the SHC as a place where that dialogue can happen.” The edible garden project ties together several aspects of the SHC. Adjacent to the College's Cerridwen Farm, the building is home base for several GMC academic programs including an undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture and food production and a new graduate program in sustainable food systems. The Community Commercial Kitchen, installed in the SHC last summer, serves as a resource for local farmers and small value-added processors to process fresh food efficiently and get their products to the marketplace.
Commercial Kitchen at GMC
Green Mountain College received a $10,000 grant from The Windham Foundation to provide new food processing equipment for the College's Solar Harvest Center commercial kitchen. The purchase of small appliances and wares will allow the kitchen to offer services to farmers, producers and community groups that are not available elsewhere in Rutland County. Renovation of the kitchen, which included a ten-burner, two-oven Garland range, a commercial dishwasher, a three-bay sink, and a commercial-scale refrigerator, was completed last year. After trial uses by community groups, certain essential items were identified as lacking including commercial-quality pots and pans, sheet trays, high quality knives, cutting boards, bowls, mixers, food processing equipment, scales and a cryovac machine“This funding is really essential to getting the most out of the kitchen facilities,” said Garland Mason, an agricultural markets research associate at the College. “When fully-equipped, the kitchen will be a great resource for local food entrepreneurs to process fresh food efficiently and get their products to the marketplace.” Before renovation of the Solar Harvest Center kitchen, the closest commercial kitchen available for rent was 25 miles away from Poultney and over state lines in Salem, N.Y. This had legal implications for Vermont producers wishing to create specialty products in a commercially certified space because products were subject to stricter New York State laws, which limit cottage industry and food entrepreneurship. The College's facility also provides the opportunity for small-scale processors to exceed the $10,000 limit of gross-annual income earned from the sale of food products processed outside of a commercially-certified kitchen, as regulated by the Vermont Department of Health.
As Americans look for creative ways to grow their own food in community gardens, vacant city lots, or reclaimed suburban land, access to water, electricity and adequate storage area for tools all present imposing barriers. Twenty Green Mountain College students and their instructor Prof. Lucas Brown embraced this challenge by creating a garden shed for the Champlain Valley Native Plant Restoration Nursery
(CVNPRN). This original open building system was designed with the idea of mass customization in mind. The system can be adapted anywhere, whether it be a farm or a community garden. In this vein, students named the project Occupy Vacant Lots, or OvaL Shed. They built and designed the 9' X 14' shed on a budget of $4500. Students created initial designs, and then brought together elements they liked from each design into a group drawing. This design was then presented to the entire class which decided what elements would best serve CVNPRN. Sustainable systems include a solar thermal water heater, rain water catchment through the use of a butterfly roof, cellulose insulation, and locally sourced building materials. Students designed an open building system using a post and beam frame and “FatWalls”—plug-in walls with a built-in purpose such as a greenhouse. The entire structure can be broken down into panels that will fit in the back of a small pickup truck allowing the user to easily move the structure. See a video of the project here.
High Tunnel Greenhouse project
While greenhouses lengthen the production season for vegetable farms, heating these structures with gas-fired or electric air burners is expensive and energy intensive. Research at Green Mountain College, funded by a $15,000 grant from Vermont's Windham Foundation
, explores new ways to sustainably grow vegetables by integrating a solar-powered hot water system in "high tunnel" greenhouses. The three-year study may reveal inexpensive ways to produce higher yields while consuming less energy. GMC researchers will experiment with thermal root-zone heating, a process that warms the soil at the roots of plants through a system of underground hot water radiant tubing. The system will generate heat from solar thermal collectors. Much of the construction was completed by GMC faculty and students: Philip Ackerman-Leist's
Seasons Extension class, Cerridwen farm students and staff, and prof. Lucas Brown's
design-build students in the College’s Renewable Energy and EcoDesign (REED) program completed the sitting, design, and construction of the high tunnels and the solar thermal system. This combination of expertise in agriculture, renewable energy, and ecological design is preparing students from both disciplines to integrate their own knowledge while working on a College research project. See a video of the project here
Flash Freeze Unit
The Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL)
, in partnership with Green Mountain College, invited area producers to come see how the unit works and to try it out using their own product. A demonstration of the unit was held Wednesday, September 17 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Green Mountain College’s Cerridwen Farm
. Farmers and interested community members are encouraged to attend. The unit was available for use by area farmers from Tuesday, September 16 to Sunday, September 21. “This is an amazing opportunity for farmers at any scale,” said India Burnett Farmer, RAFFL coordinator and GMC alum (class of 2003). “The unit provides farmers with the opportunity to understand the capabilities of the equipment, and plan next year’s crops and marketing strategy knowing the option to freeze their produce for sale throughout the winter is available.” The quick freeze system can handle large volumes of any product in need of freezing, particularly berries, corn, tomatoes, rhubarb and other produce that doesn’t require blanching or other pre-cooking. “We believe this equipment will make it more affordable for farmers to market their product, particularly for increasing how much local food is available in winter – and Rutland has been a leader in expanding those year-round markets. Ultimately, this equipment puts more Vermont food on the table,” said Anson Tebbetts, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Vermont is the first state to implement this innovative processing equipment. “The mobile quick freeze unit is the first to be used in the Unites States to bring processing capabilities right to the farm. This is a significant step in helping to give farmers additional processing options as well as making more local foods available to buyers,” said Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee.