North Hardwick Organic Dairy

Oil extr/making bio
North Hardwick Organic Dairy

signFeedstock: Sunflowers, certified organic

Fuel: Biodiesel

Co-products: High-protein sunflower meal as feed ingredient

Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery)

Services: Oilseed Grower, Oil milling, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply

Owner: Nick and Taylor Meyer

Location: Hardwick, Vermont

The Meyer family has owned and operated their dairy on a 327-acre farm in Hardwick, Vermont since 1978.  In 2003, when the younger Meyer boys took over the farm where they grew up, they transitioned to organic production. Today, Nick and Taylor produce some of the highest quality milk in the state of Vermont, winning numerous awards and gaining notoriety for their sustainable and innovative approach.

That approach has included efforts to reduce overhead costs by making the farm as self-sufficient as possible.  A Bergy Wind Turbine was erected in 2007 to provide some of the farm’s electricity and Andrew began making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil in 2008.  All the tractors on the farm run on B50 (50% biodiesel & 50% petrodiesel) for the summer and the furnace runs on B15 for the winter months.

“I want to produce everything the farm needs, without buying out (off the farm)” Nick Meyer explains. North Hardwick Dairy (NHD) uses 4,000 gallons of diesel each year (2,000 gallons of diesel for off- road equipment and 2,000 gallons in their furnace).Among the farm’s many accomplishments, in 2011 North Hardwick Dairy received the Highest Milk Quality Award in Vermont for the eighth year in a row. Several years earlier, at an award ceremony to honor their achievement, Meyer came across a card advertising the BioPro 190, a small automated machine that turns vegetable oil into biodiesel. It wasn’t long before he purchased the BioPro 190, but was unable to get enough used vegetable oil to meet his needs. They had most of the equipment in place on the farm to plant and cultivate organic sunflowers but what they lacked was an oilseed press and grain storage.

In 2009 North Hardwick Dairy was awarded a $13,000 Vermont Bioenergy Initiative matching grant to grow, harvest, and process sunflower seeds in northeastern Vermont in order to research the most efficient and cost effective means of producing and handling oilseed crops for biodiesel production. The Meyers purchased a Kern Kraft (model KK40) oilseed press and a1600-bushel grain bin with a perforated drying floor and then began the research work with University of Vermont Extension agronomists by planting their first 10 acres of high-oil sunflowers.

Later that autumn, Nick milled their sunflower seeds into oil and processed it into biodiesel for their tractors using the BioPro 190. The organic meal the Meyers mixed with grains to feed to their calves. “This project was very beneficial to North Hardwick Dairy”, wrote Nick in his final report to the VSJF. “The knowledge gained is a tremendous advantage for the future of the farm. Having a high protein source (of meal) to feed our young stock at a critical growing stage in their life is very important. This project gives the farm options for crop rotation and to potentially profit from a different commodity than milk alone”.

Due to their low yields for the first growing season (~800 lbs. per acre of sunflowers the first year, compared to the state average of ~1,500 lbs.), the final cost of their biodiesel made from sunflower oil was too expensive.  But that challenge has suggested a new opportunity to Nick, “(it would be) good to produce food grade oil for fryer oil, and then take that used oil to produce biodiesel. Alternatives like this can make a lower yield-growing season into a positive investment for the land”.