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Power’s out!

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Storms have always filled me with awe.  I love sitting, safe and secure, in my house or in the barn while the wind howls around us,  snow or rain coming down with no end in sight.  There is always one big fear with storms, though:  what if the power goes out?

I know everyone worries about this – it isn’t just farmers who have to adjust.  Being on a farm when the power goes out is different than being in town, though.

At school, I would make a comment about having a long night of farm responsibilities because the power had been out.  My friends would come back with “it’s a good thing it wasn’t me…I would have missed my favourite TV show.”
What they, and many people who are not from a farm, did not understand is how important that electricity is for farmers. 

In town, residents need electricity to keep their food (like milk and eggs) cold in the refrigerator and to run their lights and other appliances. In the country, farmers need electricity to keep their large coolers full of milk and eggs running so they can be shipped to stores and processors across the province to fill those urban refrigerators.

People in town need electricity to make food for themselves, but farmers need that electricity to provide feed for all of their animals.  Air conditioners and furnaces help keep homes comfortable for people, but it is critical that we keep our ventilation or heating and cooling systems working for our animals. 

As soon as the power starts to flicker, farmers will run for their generators and get them running.  They know the animals’ lives can depend on the temperatures in the barn remaining constant – not to warm in the summer and not too cold in the winter.  There are many stories of emergency situations where farmers went without power and running water in their homes – so they could ensure that there was ample power from the generators to provide feed, water and ventilation to their barns.

In many cases, if the power goes out for any reason, generators will start automatically within a minute to ensure that the heating, feed and watering systems remain running. And, if the generators don’t work, farms’ alarm systems are usually programmed to call the house or the farmer’s cellular phone to report the problem so the farmer can take other emergency measures.

In today’s era, it is almost impossible to have farms that are not dependent on electricity or fuels.  It is this reality which is driving farmers to invest in green energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines and biodigesters.  Farmers are also constantly finding ways to cut back.

There is still more work to be done, but today’s farmers are doing their best to cut back and limit power usage.  Maybe some day, when a storm hits, your house will not lose power because the farm down the road will be producing energy for you, too.


Posted by OFAC on May 10th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Farm Safety,Innovation and technology,Uncategorized,Weather,winter
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