MSU Extension to host first bioenergy workshop

Attendees to learn to produce agriculture for consumption, profit

BALDWIN — A new workshop that will be held next month hopes to teach attendees how to produce energy and create small farms for their own consumption, or even a profit. The Lake County MSU Extension Office will host a bioenergy and small farm day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 13 and 14 at the Baldwin Municipal Airport. As the first event of its kind in Baldwin, the workshop will teach those in attendance how to produce biomass products to be used for fuel and how to create small farms on their own property. Additionally, the workshop will discuss how to turn the products that are produced into a profit. “It’s going to show people in Lake County, and the surrounding areas, that have small tracts of land that they can produce something from that land; that they can do an agriculture product,” said MSU Extension Educator Christina Curell. Biomass is a plant-derived material that can be used as a renewable energy source. During a portion of the workshop, bioenergy educators and specialists will discuss different types of grasses and other woody biomasses that can be used to create the renewable energy source and how it can be produced on small amounts of land. The workshop also will feature a demonstration of the MSU Extension Bioenergy Department’s homemade biomass pellet mill system — a device that can be made almost entirely out of parts commonly found in a shed. “My goal is that there’s going to be someone there who is listening and they can go back and build their own,” Curell said. “This makes the small heating pellets for stoves. They could either produce their own heat source, or they can use a lot of stuff in the surrounding areas to maybe market some of it and have a little income off of this mill.” Curell said “the possibilities are endless” as to who could use the bioenergy information, noting that municipalities could also find it useful. The workshop also will discuss biodiesel fuel. The second portion of the workshop will focus on creating a small farm — how to start a farm, the economics of a farm and the grants and loans available for small farm production. The workshop also will focus on making a profit with a small farm by selling the produce in the community. Even those who already have a large garden could apply the same techniques that will be taught during the workshop, Curell said. “This is designed for people who want to start a small farm business and for people who already have a farm business, but we are really looking at the entrepreneurial side,” Curell said. “We have a lot of people that can do this, they just need to see how to do it. That is kind of our goal.” The Business Development Association of Lake County, National Resource Conservation Services, Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, Mason-Lake Conservation District and Oceana-Lake Conservation District also will be in attendance during the workshop to share their resources. The workshop is free and open to the public, even those who reside outside of Lake County. Although the workshop is held for two days, the same material is covered each day and attendees are encouraged only to attend one day. Registration is not required to attend. For more information about the workshop, contact the Lake County MSU Extension Office at (231) 745-2732.