Sunday, July 3, 2011

Here Comes the Sun: A photo essay

The first phase of our solar array project: heavy concrete foundation piers ground the galvanized steel support structure. Weight, loading, and wind factors were considered throughout the design-build stage of this project. The array is designed for 48 panels and covering 1200 square feet @ 20' high. Model 702 windmill is in the background (water-pumper); there are 3,000 gallon water (rain) storage tanks nearby.

First phase complete: 6 strings of 8 panels, in place and hot. Solar energy is an important part of 3 Boys Farm energy program; it will run submersible pumps for back-up water when the main power grid is down.

These panels, and the pumps they'll supply power to, are also part of our overall USDA water recovery program. We will be recycling spent nutrients from hydroponics and using them--in addition to rainwater--in the organic outdoor bench section as well as the seasonal high-tunnel test programs. Our combined efforts with SWFWMD and USDA are to further reduce peak ground water withdrawal.

Water conservation's importance obviously cannot be overstated--life requires water.

We must conserve our remaining resources now: they are under pressure as never before.

We want to say a huge Thank You to James Tornello, builder and fabricator extraordinaire as well as uncle of the three boys. He took Robert's drawings and turned them into this impressive solar array. Even to the untrained eye, his months of efforts--from custom fabrication work to the mounting and wiring of the array--are obvious. We will be harvesting first power this week.

Toward growing a better world: 3 Boys Farm welcomes agronomists from Haiti

The WINNER project is a five-year program designed to rebuild Haiti's agricultural infrastructure by providing "concentrated and transformative support". Brian Boman, Florida BMP (Best Management Practices) coordinator for UF/IFAS and WINNER project team member, wanted his team to see a strong example of resource management, energy efficiency, and most saliently, the level of sustainability afforded by cleverly-designed water catchment systems. Accompanied by UF's Jemy Hinton, the agronomists, shown above, toured the facilities at 3 Boys Farm; Robert thoroughly enjoyed discussing methods and practices that will help Haiti successfully grow and produce food for its people, and do so in the face of conditions that many traditional farmers Stateside would consider insurmountable.

Some more information about WINNER from Florida Grower:

The earthquake that devastated Haiti last year brought more troubles for a land that has long suffered from issues related to systemic poor governance, regular upheavals, and coup d’├ętats. Farming, for example, has faced major problems long before the quake hit, making successful commercial agriculture in the country virtually non-existent.

With its location and various climates at different elevations, Haiti has the potential to grow many different crops and become a more self-sustaining country. USAID is funding the Watershed Initiative For National Natural Environmental Resources (WINNER) project, which is focused on sustainable agricultural development in Haiti. Chemonics International is managing the project and has subcontracted UF/IFAS to help resurrect agriculture there.

Unintended Results

Years ago there was a commercial agricultural sector in Haiti. But, when the U.S. and other countries began shipping in humanitarian food aid beginning in the 1960s, it killed the ag economy.

“When the free food aid started coming in, it destroyed agriculture,” says Brian Boman, Florida BMP coordinator for UF/IFAS and WINNER project team member. “Local farmers couldn’t compete with free. All of those farmers had no jobs, so they moved to the cities like Port-au-Prince and a whole other set of urban problems rose out of that migration.

“Haiti has lost a couple of generations of farmers and the knowledge of how to grow. We are here to reintroduce modern ag practices, so people can learn how to produce their own food in a sustainable way and have viable commercial agriculture.”