Workshops on Anaerobic Digesters for Small Farms Offered this Winter

It is generally accepted that anaerobic digesters (AD) are efficient technologies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock operations. In addition, AD technology has a number of other potential benefits including: energy production for use on the farm and for sale, separation of manure solids for ease of use or export off farm, pathogen reduction leading to healthier labor and herd outcomes and odor control.

It is also clear that in the United States, research and extension efforts, including public financing of AD technology installations, have disproportionally been focused on larger farms- e.g., dairy farms with at least 500 milking cows. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, land grant universities as well as private sector firms have tended to ignore smaller scale livestock farms in regards to the development of appropriate AD technology interventions.

However, there seems to be a growing recognition that smaller farms maintain a large amount of animals in total; and that GHG policy should encompass the methane and other gases produced by livestock on smaller farms- e.g., in the United States 34% of all milk cows reside on farms with less than 200 cows.  In addition, social equity arguments concerning the need to spend public dollars on a broad constituency have proven effective- 90% of all dairy farms in the U.S. are smaller than 200 milking cows.

A team of researchers from Clarkson and Syracuse University together with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saint Lawrence County have been studying AD technologies to be applied to smaller dairy operations for several years.  The team has focused on technologies that could be readily integrated in small farm operations evaluating several beneficial AD products (e.g. energy use, solids, fertilizer use) and contrasting them to needs for AD operation.

With funding from USDA the researchers are offering workshops on the opportunities and viability of AD for dairy operations or smaller organic waste producers.  The goal of the workshops is to educate farm producers about the technology and how it could be integrated into a diversified farm business.  Workshops will make use of a scaled digester system to illustrate modes of operation.

The three workshops at Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm (2043 State Highway 68, Canton, NY) are scheduled for December 5 – 10 am-2 pm, February 7 – 10 am-2 pm and March 6 – 6 pm -9 pm. For more information about the details of the workshops please contact the project’s Principal Investigator Stefan Grimberg at Clarkson University (315-268-6490; or Patrick Ames, Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saint Lawrence County (315-379-9192; All workshops will provide a catered meal and that participants coming from within the six-county North Country Region will receive a $25 stipend in support of their travel.  Participants from outside the North Country will receive a $50 stipend.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.

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