Conserving energy helps preserve cattle farm
Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson aren’t content with working “outside the box.” They’re working to change the box.
The couple, who own and run Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, N.H., want people to think about how they live and what they consume. They’re high-tech professionals turned farmers. They raise Scottish Highlander beef cattle, but advocate for people to eat less meat. When they planned to add a retail store onto the side of their 150-year-old barn, their thoughts naturally turned to solar power – photovoltaic panels and a thermal heating system.
They didn’t think they’d have much problem getting the project financed. That’s when they were reminded how far outside of the box they are. When they worked in high-tech, says Carole, “We had more money than we needed and people were begging to give us more.” Now, having self-financed their own startup business and trying to preserve the land … there was no box for that. They couldn’t get a loan.
Then, at a conference for New Hampshire entrepreneurs, Carole discovered that the Community Loan Fund co-managed (with NH Community Development Finance Authority) a revolving loan fund for energy improvements and renewable energy projects at nonprofits and small businesses. Miles Smith Farm’s proposal was accepted and the loan, combined with a federal grant, made it affordable to hire two local firms to add solar systems to the renovated barn. Although the application and implementation processes were painstaking, partly because both the grant and the loan came from federal stimulus funds, Carole and Bruce appreciated the Community Loan Fund’s local perspective.
“The Community Loan Fund looked at the value we bring to the community,” including providing healthy meat, helping local farmers survive by bringing their products to market, and improving farm soil, said Carole. “Rather than putting houses on Miles Smith Farm, we want to put cattle. It was the value of the community business that was appreciated.”
The couple opened the store with a big bash this spring. They estimate that the solar energy and heat will save them at least $2,000 a year, while conserving the equivalent of 15 barrels of oil. The space replaced their cramped basement store and, they believe, will encourage visitors to return for their natural, locally raised meat products.
“What we’re trying to do is make local beef available to local people. And it’s not easy,” says Carole. “So we appreciate all the help we can get, and the Community Loan Fund is helping us.”
This article was originally published in the Community Loan Fund’s 2011 annual report.