FFA competes and succeeds!


Congratulations to the Galway FFA members who participated in sub-district competition Friday the 20th at Salem High School! Trevor Osterhout and Anna Watson both received first place with their People in Agriculture presentations. Seth Kenyon was fourth in Employment Skills, a mock job interview competition. Sierra Denison was third in Prepared Public Speaking, while Addelayde Ross won first place in Prepared Public Speaking, the event with the most participants in it! Congratulations on a job well done! On to District competition in February!


Since Addelayde is an EMC staffer, she has shared the speech she wrote, that earned her first place. You can read it here!

Have you noticed more and more solar panels when you drive by local farms? If you answered yes, you are not wrong. A growing number of farmers have turned to subsidizing theirfarmland with solar panels.

You may ask “what is the cause of the subsidization?” It began a while back, starting in 1983, but greatly worsened when the United States faced economic severties during Covid-19. Our country is based on a food infrastructure. When covid-19 hit the US, people went from having farms to depend on and now a growing number of farms are gradually being erased. According to Farmaid, government oversight is assuming more and more control of our once farm-owned food system, leaving us economically vulnerable if another pandemic were to strike yet again. Besides the growing commercialization of food, what has forced farmers to seek
subsidization with solar panels?

That reality is based on a few key factors. One of the main aspects contributing to the need for subsidization is a succession issue. The next generation is more interested in jobs outside of agriculture than past generations. As part of the legacy of Future Farmers of America, we have to bring the spark of agriculture back into today’s generation. If we don’t bring agriculture back into today’s constantly urbanizing world, decades from now, we may have lost all of our local farmers. The boom of jobs outside of agriculture means people face the decision on whether or not they would like to become an industry worker or a farmer. People are choosing industry jobs over farming because they pay substantially more, provide work benefits, and are less strenuous on the human body. The government has looked into increasing the pay of farmers upwards of the $15 dollars fast food employers are making in New York. As much as that would help with workers wanting to farm and keeping farms open, it may not completely work. According to National Geographic, agricultural labor economists believe that it is not possible because it would hike up the prices for American food shoppers. With that being said, the poverty issues that farmers are facing need to be addressed. Even if farmers still had more employees and crop yield, they still would barely have enough money to keep their farms up and running. On behalf of National Geographic, in 2014, farmers were making roughly $10,000 a year which was below the federal poverty line of $11,600. Even throughout the ups and downs of farming and poverty, some farmers still choose to continue their farming journey. Many seek to ensure the future of their farms for their children and bridge the gaps in their income with solar panels.

Technology is making farms more efficient. But in order to have a mass produced technology farm, you need money. Many farmers are lacking money, so only large corporate farms have the chance to upgrade. According to Time, 4 million small farms disappeared in the US from 1948-2015. The growing globalization brought farmers into the international crop market, flooding it with cattle, milk, soy beans, and corn. This is what people want because having more of a supply, which means cheaper prices. According to John Newton, an economist from the American Farm Bureau, global food production has increased by 30 percent. Although this is more financially stable for farmers, some local farmers can’t quite jump on the bandwagon and globalize. Some of those remaining farmers subsidize their land with solar panels.

So, you may be wondering if there are any positives to having solar panels on your farm. Research by Energy Saving Pros, shows that solar panels can actually help out farmers quite a lot. Some of the general advantages are a lower electric bill, better habitat for plants and wildlife,
reducing the emissions, and increasing the value of your farm. Solar panels are also incredibly useful for the fields themselves. When you plant the same crop too many years in a row, the nutrients it most uses will become depleted. By having solar panels in those fields, it allows for
nutrient and land recharge on those depleted fields. Even though crops aren’t being planted in these fields, farmers are letting the land rest and making profits off of the solar panels. Not only will the panels lower a farm’s electric bill, but they will also decrease water usage, which will
help greatly, especially in the time of droughts. Energy Saving Pros also state that by using solar power, it helps divert water produced by hydropower or irrigation systems which reduces the groundwater usage. Most importantly, solar panels can actually increase the crop growing
season. World Economic Forum shares that the shade of the panels over the crops protect the plants from heat stress and water loss. Some farmers can also sell the electricity from the panels back to the energy company. 8 billion trees state that farmers can make up $40,000 for every megawatt installed. That means that farmers would have a 10-20% profit margin from these solar panels. With these new benefits, farmers have a better opportunity to keep their farms up and running!

Lowered electric bill, more efficient water usage, the retail worth of the farm will increase, and crop seasons will last longer. Now, all of this sounds very beneficial! Like most other things, solar panels are not without their drawbacks. Although solar panels may save money in the long run, they unfortunately have extremely high initial costs for set up and materials. According to Solar Reviews, in order to set up a solar farm, it can cost .89 cents to $1.01 per watt. This adds up to a total initial cost of $890,000 to $1.1 million for a single megawatt farm. Another disadvantage is that there is no solar power at night, which means that you are left depending on a different source of energy or battery storage. People typically use quite a bit of electricity at night. Without having 24 hour solar power, this can cost farmers substantially more. Another costly disadvantage of solar panels is that there is not a ton of sunlight during the winter, as there is typically 12-15 hours in the other seasons. With winter only receiving 9 hours of sunlight, farmers are left to depend on battery storage for electricity for the remaining 15 hours. According to Igsenergy, a battery installation ranges from $5,000-7,000. This by itself is just the cost for the battery, not including the tools and expenses needed to set up the rest of the solar panels.

Generally solar panels have great benefits to farmers, but they also come with a price to pay. Personally, I believe that every farmer should be able to make their own decisions on whether or not they want solar panels on their farm. I find it very frustrating that many farmers feel that they are in a situation where they have few options but to incorporate solar panels to survive. If we had better benefits, pay, and financial aid, many of these farmers would not be in the place that they are. There are certainly reasons some farmers want these panels on their
property in order to help increase their profitability and reduce their electric bill, but when they feel as though they don’t have a choice on whether or not they want to “go solar”, that is when it becomes frustrating.

No farmer should feel forced to switch to solar to survive. Our farmers are the backbone of our nation. While solar can be a crucial tool for their success, it should only be just that: one tool, out of many possible solutions, for ensuring a strong farming future for our nation.