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The Lower Hudson – Long Island Resource Conservation and Development Council has built a mobile grass pelletizing machine that can travel from farm to farm, turning cut grass into pellet fuel for stoves that will heat greenhouses, machinery shops and other farm buildings and eventually sale to the public for residential use.

Through a matrix of grant funds including. USDA, the New York State Research Energy and Development Authority, The New York Farm Viability Institute to explore growing and harvesting grasses, including switchgrass and reed canary grass, as well as process pellets to help farmers jumpstart an energy system that will reduce fuel bills.  Additionally, project leaders anticipated the farmers would have enough grass pellets to sell some product to owners of small-scale commercial or residential pellets stoves, creating a new revenue stream for grass-growers.

“This is an opportunity for farmers to solve their energy challenges right on the farm,” said John Brown, who grows hay for sale on his farm in the Town of Montgomery, Orange County.

In 2003, the Lower Hudson/Long Island Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties began working together to kick-start on-farm manufacture of grass pellets.  When burned, the pellets can be a direct energy source to heat greenhouses, farm buildings and residences. In addition, small-scale, local retailers could sell the pellets. 

Grass could provide many economic benefits to farm businesses in the Hudson Valley.Grass pellets could improve farm profitability by providing new uses for agricultural products, while replacing high-cost conventional fuels with lower-cost homemade grass fuel. 
“This project is a win-win for the farmers in the lower Hudson Valley.  It is an opportunity to utilize grassland for its best use, with minimal inputs, while protecting the soil and habitat that exists in the grasslands,” said Joseph Heller, coordinator for the Lower Hudson –Long Island Resource Conservation and Development.  

Kevin Sumner, Conservation District Manager in Orange County, said the project has taken on a life of its own.  Grass pellets, he said might be “another stream of income for farmers, and allow an economically viable use for hay that may have lost its nutrient value for livestock.  By utilizing a locally produced source of alternative energy, it keeps heating dollars at home.”

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The Lower Hudson – Long Island Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization made up of volunteers working in partnership with local communities and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service. Providing assistance to Urban and Rural Communities throughout Brooklyn, Dutchess, Manhattan, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rockland, Staten Island, Suffolk, The Bronx, Ulster and Westchester.