Learn about on-farm energy audits, organic dairying at Canoe Creek Dairy field day – Oct. 3, Decorah

For Release: September 18, 2015

DECORAH, Iowa — When it comes to managing farm sustainability over the long-term, finding ways to trim energy use is an important part of the picture. Some types of energy conservation are more obvious than others – such as reducing fuel use or installing renewable energy technologies. But other energy sinks can be harder to spot, and that’s where a whole-farm energy audit can prove invaluable.

Dan and Bonnie Beard decided to conduct a whole-farm energy audit of their organic dairy earlier this year, and say it revealed some surprising feedback on ways they could improve their energy efficiency.

“We use a lot of hot water, and we happen to have an on-demand hot water system, rather than a tank heater,” says Dan, who operates Canoe Creek Dairy near Decorah with Bonnie, son Tom and daughter-in-law Maren. “The energy auditors said that if we took the heat from the compressors that cool our milk and use it to pre-heat the water, the whole system would work much better, and we’d gain all that heat that we’re otherwise just trying to get rid of. So that was really good to learn.”

The Beard family will share their experience with the energy audit process at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event – “On-Farm Energy Audit and Economics of an Organic Dairy” – is being held in partnership with Winneshiek Energy District, and will include a lunch featuring foods from Organic Valley. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow, lauren@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661, by Wednesday, Sept. 30. Canoe Creek Dairy is located at 2954 Middle Sattre Road, about 4.5 miles north of the junction of U.S. 52 and Iowa Route 9. The field day is sponsored by Organic Valley, Organic Prairie and CROPP Cooperative.

Attendees will learn about on-farm energy audits while touring the Beards’ organic dairy operation and learning about the economics of organic dairying, as well as organic beef and dairy production. Tom Beard will talk about grazing and marketing hair sheep, and Maren Beard will discuss the process of installing solar panels on the farm. Other speakers will include Kayla Koether, of Winneshiek Energy District, who will walk through the process of a whole-farm energy audit; and Jennifer Bentley, a dairy field specialist with Iowa State University Extension.

Dan says that while the family isn’t sure they will make all the changes suggested by the energy audit, the process was very informative. “We knew there were a few things we should do improve the efficiency of the dairy, but the audit really reinforced it. Kayla and the other auditor went through all our electrical use records and were able to extrapolate what parts of our energy use were attributed to various parts of the operation.”

The Beards have an organic dairy, beef and sheep operation. The family rotationally grazes their predominantly Jersey dairy herd, a Red Devon beef herd and a half-Katahdin sheep herd.

Directions: From the junction of Iowa Route 9 and U.S. 52, go 4.6 miles north of Decorah on U.S. 52. Turn east on Meadowlark Road, go 2.2 miles and continue across Locust Road. Meadowlark becomes Canoe Ridge Road. Go 1.2 miles, then turn left on Middle Sattre Road and go about 1 mile.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit https://www.practicalfarmers.org.


Dan and Bonnie Beard | Canoe Creek Dairy | (563) 382-2765

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | tamsyn@practicalfarmers.org