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County helps local producers with ‘food chain’ efficiencies

Karen Olson of Blackjack Valley Farms checks a milking machine connected to  Mrs. Piggy, a Guernsey milk cow, Wednesday morning. Olson’s farm recently won a Kitsap Food Chain rebate grant to install a new energy efficient refrigerated milk tank. - Greg Skinner/Staff Photo
Karen Olson of Blackjack Valley Farms checks a milking machine connected to Mrs. Piggy, a Guernsey milk cow, Wednesday morning. Olson’s farm recently won a Kitsap Food Chain rebate grant to install a new energy efficient refrigerated milk tank.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/Staff Photo

Every day Karen Olsen milks her small mixed herd Holstien and Gurney cows at her South Kitsap farm. To keep her raw milk product the best and freshest for Kitsap County and other local markets, she works hard to cool the milk from 98 degrees to 45 degrees in 20 minutes.

Olsen gets it done at her Blackjack Valley Farm the old-fashioned way, milk cans set into bins of water loaded with ice. She acts at the “agitator” stering the milk for even cooling.

“You want to get the milk as cold as you can as fast as you can,” she said.

Kitsap County is not a big producer agriculturally, but the Kitsap Food Chain program seeks to cut energy costs and the carbon footprint to grow and delivering local food to local markets. In effort to make Kitsap County’s “food chain” more energy effecent and affordable the Board of Kitsap County Commissioners Monday approved a series of grants to local food producers.

Blackjack Valley Farms seeks to reduce its energy costs for its small dairy to daily cool 333 pounds of milk with ice using a mixture of residential and commercial equipment. A new 40-gallon cooling tank designed specifically for milk is expected to save money and time, said Kitsap County Resources Conservation manager Autumn Salamack.

A total of $47,708 in of federal stimulus grants were awarded to eight local companies out of the nine requesting rebates for energy efficient upgrades. The local program assessed 11 companies, of which nine moved forward with recommended upgrades and eight were awarded rebates for projects. Local companies receiving energy audits included Minder Meats in Bremerton and Monica’s Waterfront Bakery in Silverdale.

“[We’re] really excited to see that number of applicants,” Salamack said.

The monies will be awarded after the Kitsap County Conservation District verifies the work has been done. Two examples of projects made possible by the federal grants include the Blackjack Valley Farms project in Port Orchard and Pheasant Field Farm in Central Kitsap.

Pheasant Field Farms will replace its refrigeration too. Combined, the two farm projects’ cost is $18,000, which will initially be paid for by the farms. Once approved, the county will rebate about $14,000. The annual energy savings for the two farms is estimated to be 7,600 kWh, or $755 combined. The county estimates that the investment will take 24 years to repay itself.

The program is part of the county’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Plan which was adopted last year. The goal is to reduce countywide energy use by 30 percent by 2020, with the energy year 2009 as a baseline. The program also seeks to encourage renewable energy use with a goal of 10 percent by 2020.

Kitsap County received $2.2 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 in effort to reduce energy demand, save taxpayer dollars used for county operations, lower home utility bills, promote a green economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Much of it has been spent to retrofit county buildings for energy efficiency.

Olsen said she was shocked to see how much of the cold she produced when electricity escaped the doors of the freezers making ice for her milk cooling operation. She said the grant to help with improvements in her milk processing is welcome aid for her farm.

“It’s good for local business and it’s good for energy efficiency,” Salamack said.

After two years, the county has reported a 2 percent reduction in electricity and and natural gas usage and a 54 percent reduction in propane use.

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