The Northern Forest Center has awarded Turning Page Farm a second Tourism Innovation Program (TIP) grant to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions at its brewery and goat farm in Monson, Maine.
The new funding supports installation of a 13-kilowatt solar system to provide all the energy needed for Turning Page Farm’s brewery, cheese making room, tasting room, farm store, and goat milking area. In 2019 the Center awarded the farm a TIP grant that enabled the owners to expand brewing capacity, add a food cart offering, and extend their visitation season with a passive solar greenhouse tasting room. With those improvements completed, Turning Page Farm was ready to move ahead with phase two of its plan.
“As the business has grown quickly, and without the proper energy infrastructure, the costs of running refrigerators, heaters, and freezing was crippling,” said Joy Bueschen who owns Turning Page Farm with her husband Tim. “If we can't afford to keep the lights on, literally, we can't make the business model work.”
This second TIP grant will allow Joy and Tim to work with Insource Renewables, located in Pittsfield, to install the new solar system at Turning Page Farm. The project is also being funded in part by a grant from USDA Rural Development.
Like most businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector, Turning Page Farm is highly dependent on visitor travel. During the mandatory Covid-19 business closing in March, April, and May, Joy and Tim switched to offering takeaway options for customers, stayed locally connected through social media, and offered increased sanitation and physical distancing options.
While long-term impact of Covid-19 remains unclear, at this point Joy and Tim are expecting they will have some tourist season in 2020 – even if scaled back – and see this project as critical to their success regardless of how the year evolves.
“Without sales, or with reduced sales, having a reduced overhead becomes more important than ever,” said Joy. “We need to keep the same spaces cooled or heated whether we have 50 or 200 customers each weekend. This project may be even more critical if sales are down as we head into fall and the high energy costs of heating season.”
“We’re thrilled to be helping creative and energetic entrepreneurs like Joy and Tim build businesses in rural communities,” said Mike Wilson, the Center’s senior program director. “Turning Page Farm is a great example of how lifestyle and livelihood can come together in the Northern Forest.”