Drying grain without propane: the Small Farm Energy Project

“6/16/79 At the Fish farm, Earl showed visitors the greenhouse and the solar dryer. He said, ‘You’ll have a hard time convincing Earl Fish that you can’t dry grain without propane.’” This comes from records of the Small Farm Energy Project, a research and demonstration project of the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) to show the impact of energy conservation innovations on small farmers.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

ISU Special Collections and University Archives holds the records of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based non-profit organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to improving the lives and opportunities of small farmers and rural communities. Among their many projects to improve the welfare of rural Americans, the CFRA has developed projects related to global warming and agriculture, in addition to this and other work in clean energy, which is why I’m highlighting them in honor of Earth Day, which was April 22.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

For the Small Farm Energy Project, CFRA targeted low-income farmers with net incomes within 125 percent of the poverty level. Farmers applied to be part of the study. Of fifty total participants, 25 formed a control group that made no changes, but kept detailed records of their energy usage. The other 25 were the innovators, who were exposed to a variety of alternative energy technologies through a series of workshops. Individual farmers chose which technologies to implement based on their individual situations.

Earl Fish was one of the farm innovators, and his success using a solar grain dryer attracted the interest of other farmers in the area. The Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter for December 1977 reads, “Fish, cooperating farmer of the Small Farm Energy Project, used solar energy to dry grain in his 6000 bu. bin equipped with stirrator. Propane had been used in previous years for drying, but not in 1977. …Fish was particularly impressed with the quality of the dried grain using the low temperature process of solar drying compared to higher temperature drying. Another advantage of the system cited by Fish is the fan housing which lowers fan noise levels considerably.”

The Preliminary Report for the project estimates that a “solar grain dryer has the potential to save a farmer $260 a year over a 10-year period when used as a substitute for more energy-intensive batch drying. More than half the farms that could install a solar grain dryer did so” (p. 30, box 106, folder 21).

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Check out the Center for Rural Affairs Records (MS 413) to learn more about the Small Farm Energy Project, including construction guidelines  to build your own solar grain dryer (see box 106, folder 18)!

Happy Earth Day!

 

Sources

Farm Interview: Earl Fish. Box 104, Folder 36.

“Innovations Continue as Project Extended.” Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter. Issue 9. December, 1977. Box 104, Folder 22.

Small Farm Energy Project, Center for Rural Affairs. “Preliminary Report January, 1977, through December, 1978 for the Impact of Various Energy Innovations on Energy Consumption and Net Income for 48 Small Farms.” July 1979. Box 106, Folder 21.


Earth Day: Louis Pammel and Iowa state parks

Iowa was one of the first states in the United States to adopt a state park system, and it did so in large part due to the efforts of Iowa State professor of botany Louis H. Pammel.

Louis Pammel (right) with Carl Fritz Henning, custodian at Ledges State Park, 1926.

Louis Pammel (right) with Carl Fritz Henning, custodian at Ledges State Park, 1926.

In 1917, the Iowa General Assembly created the State Board of Conservation for the purpose of making recommendations for acquiring land for state parks and to administer the parks. Pammel served as the Board’s first chairman from 1918-1927. Under his tenure, Iowa acquired 38 state parks.

Pamphlet, "State Parks of Iowa," RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8.

Pamphlet, “State Parks of Iowa,” RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8 (click for larger image)

In an article titled, “Iowa Keeps Nature’s Gift: What the State is Doing to Preserve Plant Life and Scenic Beauties,” Pammel makes a case for the beauty of the Iowa landscapes set aside in state parks:

Photo of Palisades on the Cedar River in Linn County, later Palisades-Kepler State Park, Box 51, Folder 4a.

Photo of Palisades on the Cedar River in Linn County, later Palisades-Kepler State Park, RS 13/5/13, Box 51, Folder 4a.

We think of a park as a place where there are trees like the maple and the basswood or the stately elm and the sycamore or white pine and cedar, the oak and the ash and they are all beautiful, but let [us] not forget that in Iowa at least we should have pride in the Prairie Park where the lily and gentian, the golden rod and aster, the blue stem and the switch grass, the pasque flower and Johnny-jump-up vie with each other in brilliant array, for it is to the prairie that we owe all of our greatness as a corn state. (Louis H. Pammel Papers, RS 13/5/13, Box 41, Folder 4)

More than just beauty, however, Pammel was concerned with the resources state parks offered for science, history, and recreation:

The persons who framed the [Iowa state park] law had in mind the preservation of animals, rare plants, unique trees, some unique geological formations, the preservation of the Indian mounds, rare old buildings where Iowa history was made….The framers of this law wished to show generations yet unborn what Iowa had in the way of prairie, valley, lake and river. It was felt that a part of this heritage left to us was not only for the present generations, but that its citizens of the future had a just claim on this heritage. (Box 41, Folder 6)

Program from the dedication of Pammel State Park, 1930. Box 76, Folder 8.

Program from the dedication of Pammel State Park, 1930. RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8.

On June 30, 1930, Pammel’s contributions to Iowa state parks were honored with the re-dedication of Devil’s Backbone State Park near Winterset in Madison County as Pammel State Park.

Celebrate Earth Day by visiting an Iowa state park or other state park near you. Find out more about Pammel’s fascinating life (including his interactions with ISU alum George Washington Carver!) in the Louis Hermann Pammel Papers, RS 13/5/13.

 


CyPix: Earth Day in the ISU Library

In the fall of 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin called for environmental teach-ins on college and university campuses throughout the country during the following spring. Nelson also called for a nationwide teach-in on April 22, 1970. With this movement, Earth Day was born.

Iowa State University Library supported the environmental teach-in movement, as we can see in this photo from the 1970s. Two students are holding a book entitled Man: An Endangered Species? from the Environmental Teach-In Collection.

 

Two students hold a book entitled "Man: An Endangered Species?" amid the low shelves of the Environmental Teach-In Collection, while other students sit in the chairs near the collection.

Two students hold a book from the ISU Library’s Environmental Teach-In Collection, circa 1970. RS 4/8/H Library, Box 148.

Beginning in the 1970s, there have been many student environmental groups on campus, such as Ecodefenders (RS 22/4/0/1), Emerging Green Builders (RS 22/7/0/1), Engineers for a Sustainable World (RS 22/10/0/1), the Student Environmental Council (RS 22/4/0/1), among others. Collections for these groups are listed along with other environmental collections in our Environment and Sustainability Collections Guide. Come in and check out how ISU has been involved in the environmental movement!

Happy Earth Day!