LETTER: Solar is next generation farming

Published 1:22 pm Saturday, February 6, 2021

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To the Editor:

As farmers, we have always been producers of fiber and food crops. The fibrous crops that we grow in Virginia are primarily trees and cotton. In Charlotte County, trees are the only fibrous crop that we grow (68% of our land is wooded). These trees eventually get harvested to make wood and paper products.

The food (energy) crops that we raise in Charlotte County include pasture and hay, corn, soybeans, wheat, fruit, and vegetables, tobacco, and a little hemp. Corn and wheat has been with us since biblical days. Tobacco was a dominant cash crop in the county until the 1980s. Soybeans moved into Charlotte County in the 1970s. With their high protein and high oil content, and the ability to tolerate somewhat hot, dry summers, soybeans have become the dominant row crop planted in the county today.

Soybeans, corn, wheat, pasture and hay are all energy crops. The livestock that we raise (cattle, hogs, sheep, chicken and fish) eat these crops either directly or indirectly as major ingredients in feed rations. They use the energy from these feed rations to grow muscle in their bodies. We (humans) ultimately eat that animal muscle as meat.

Solar Farming is next generation energy farming. We will plant solar panels in a few of our fields to capture the sunlight energy and convert it into electrical energy, energy that we will use to heat our homes in the winter, cool our homes in the summer, provide power for lights, refrigerators, televisions, and computers in our homes and businesses.

General Motors has stated that all of the cars and trucks that it makes after the year 2035 will be electric, battery-powered vehicles. Microsoft is building its eastern U.S. Headquarters in Northern Virginia because of Virginia’s commitment to produce more “green” energy. Us folks in Charlotte County won’t get any of those high-paying jobs that Microsoft is bringing to Northern Virginia because we live too far away, but we will get to make money producing and selling electricity to city brothers and sisters. Because of the abundance of open space that we have in this county, we can integrate solar farms into our farm operations.

These partnerships provide clean, renewable energy to rural communities and an additional source of income for farmers, which can be an economic lifeline for family operations to continue from one generation to the next. Let’s go for it and become part of the solution for the growing demand that our nation has for solar grown electric energy.

Cornell Goldman