Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 11:00 AM
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
Bruce "B.J." Macfarlane (left), farm lab coordinator at Shasta College in Redding, Calif., talks with agriculture instructor Trena Kimler-Richards about a schedule for taking a harvester out. The college has placed a renewed emphasis on sustainability.
Idea saves costs while tying in with curriculum
By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. -- A local community college farm here has its eye on sustainability -- for more reasons than one.
Shasta College instructors and students refurbished a 1960s-era milling machine with a hammer mill for chopping hay and a tub grinder for processing feed grains.
The college grows all of its hay and recently started planting a short-season milo, a feed grain related to corn, on 13 acres. The goal was to eliminate the cost of purchasing feed, said Trena Kimler-Richards, an agriculture instructor at the campus.
"With hogs, feed was one of our biggest costs," she said.
The farm has a mission of becoming self-sustaining, which Kimler-Richards and other educators believe carries the dual benefit of controlling costs during tight fiscal times and sending a positive message to students with regard to conservation.
"It definitely ties in with all our curriculum," Kimler-Richards said of the sustainability push. "It shows the students how to better utilize what you have -- to work with the existing ... climate and take care of your needs in-house. It teaches the students to build soil from the ground up by composting and learning how to soil test, and plant crops that complement what the soil needs."
The college dusted off a more than 30-year-old combine to harvest the milo in December, and used the tub grinder to grind it and add a mineral mix, Kimler-Richards said. The students can customize the mixtures according to hogs' ages and condition, avoiding the need for purchasing different bags of feed, she said.
"It's saving us about $100 a ton, and we feed about 12 tons of hog feed a year," she said.
Farm lab coordinator Bruce "B.J." Macfarlane also arranged for the farm to collect all the fryer grease from the college cafeteria and add that to a hay mixture as an energy source for cows and goats. That eliminates the cafeteria's cost of having to dispose of the grease.
The farm is also using its goats to graze road edges so they don't have to be sprayed, and is using them for weed control in its vineyards early in the season, Kimler-Richards said.
The farm is also using sedan, a fast-growing grass, for weed control in between rotating crops in its fields, Macfarlane said.
"It grows so much faster than weeds," he said.
Parts on the mixer and grinder haven't been available since the early 1970s, Macfarlane said, so students from the welding and auto mechanics departments have helped fix it. The harvester hadn't run in 12 years, but the college needed it to get the grain from the fields.
"With the price of grain right now, it's essential that it runs," he said.
The farm has faced uncertainties in recent years amid the state's fiscal crunch, including a proposal in 2009 to close it and a later effort to put solar panels in one of its fields, both of which were defeated. Officials insist the farm is on solid footing now, partly because it is generating some of its own income.
"The administration has been very supportive," Kimler-Richards said.
Shasta College: http://www.shastacollege.edu