The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences announces its fifth annual Ag Forecast Series. The sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 24 in Gainesville, Jan. 25 in Tifton, Jan. 27 in Statesboro, Feb. 9 in Carrollton and Feb. 10 in Macon. A networking lunch will follow each forecast.Producers, policymakers, agribusiness professionals and consumers will hear the 2011 economic outlook for agriculture from UGA agricultural economists. Local speakers will share success stories, and a keynote speaker will offer a broad view on the locally grown movement. A question-and-answer session will follow the speakers’ presentations.Participants will receive a copy of the 2011 Ag Forecast book, which gives a detailed analysis of each major agricultural product – from broilers to blueberries – produced in Georgia.Gainesville, Jan. 24At the Gainesville session, Ken Meter, the executive director of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, Minn., will discuss local food systems. He is one of the top food system analysts in the U.S. His “Finding Food in Farm Country” studies have promoted food networks in 45 regions in 20 states and one Canadian province. He heads the proposal review process for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Projects. He directed the public process for the award-winning Minneapolis sustainability plan. Tim Young will be the guest speaker. He believes in harmony on his sustainable 125-acre farm in Elberton, Ga. His farm, Nature’s Harmony, offers grass-fed Murray Grey and Angus beef, pastured poultry and eggs, free-foraging heritage Ossabaw and Berkshire pork, heritage turkeys, pastured lamb and organic honey. Young sells his products locally through Community Sponsored Agriculture and at several local famers markets. John McKissick will give the economic outlook. McKissick is a distinguished professor of agricultural marketing at UGA CAES.The Gainesville session will be held at the Georgia Mountains Center Jan. 24.Tifton, Jan. 25Meter will also discuss local food systems at the Tifton session, which will be held at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center Jan. 25. Bill Brim will be the guest speaker. He farms 4,000 acres of vegetables in Tifton. He raises vegetable transplants and pine tree seedlings in greenhouses and has modern packing and shipping facilities on his farms. Nathan Smith, UGA CAES professor of agricultural economics, will give the economic outlook. Statesboro, January 27At the Statesboro session Jan. 27, Kirk Farquharson, the Southeast Regional Office Farm to School Coordinator with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, will discuss local food systems.George Shumaker, professor emeritus with the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, will give the economic outlook. The Statesboro session will be held at the Nessmith-Lane Center. Carrollton, Feb. 9Farquharson will discuss local food systems at the Carrollton session Feb. 9.Bluffton, Ga., cattle farmer Will Harris will be the guest speaker. His White Oak Pastures is the largest USDA certified organic farm in Georgia. His herds freely graze native grasses and are not given hormones, antibiotics or non-natural feeds. Harris also raises free-range Bronze turkeys. He uses an on-farm processing plant. Harris’ beef is sold in Publix Supermarkets and at Whole Food Markets. Ground beef is distributed through Destiny Organics and Tree of Life, which delivers frozen natural foods to health food stores along the eastern seaboard. Curt Lacy, a UGA Cooperative Extension economist, will give the economic outlook. The Carrollton session will be held at the Carroll County Ag Center. Macon, Feb. 10Farquharson will discuss local food systems in Macon Feb. 10.Russell Johnston will be the guest speaker. He runs Johnston Dairy in Newborn, Ga., a family business in operation since 1956. The farm milks between 80 and 100 cows a day and yields more than 8 gallons per cow. The farm bottles its milk fresh on the farm. His dairy products, including handmade small batch cheese and yogurt, are sold in specialty markets across north Georgia and are served in fine restaurants. The farm produces much of the cows diet as well, growing wheat, barley, grain sorghum, hay, oats and rye grass for silage.Don Shurley, a UGA Extension agricultural economist, will give the economic outlook. The Macon session will be held at the Georgia Farm Bureau Building. Registration will open at 9:30 a.m. at each session. The sessions cost $30 per person or $200 for a table of eight. For more information and to register, visit www.georgiaagforecast.com.
National Life Group announced today a biomass energy project that will meet 90 percent of the heating needs of its Montpelier campus while reducing the company’s annual carbon footprint by 45 percent. The $2 million project, scheduled to be completed in late summer, is expected to cut National Life’s annual usage of heating oil from 210,000 gallons to about 30,000 gallons. The company’s $500,000 annual heating bill will be cut roughly in half.National Life’s 500,000-square-foot headquarters is one of the largest commercial buildings in Vermont.“This project will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and will create jobs in our region by supporting our forest products industry,” said Mehran Assadi, president and CEO of National Life Group.Governor Jim Douglas, who attended the announcement, praised National Life’s environmental leadership. “This company is a corporate leader when it comes to energy and the environment,” he said, noting that National Life hosts one of the largest solar electricity installations in the state.Last year the U.S. Green Building Council awarded National Life’s 50-year-old headquarters silver certification under the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.National Life’s new heating system will use two biomass boilers to burn carbon-neutral woodchips from local renewable sources as fuel. A bin to hold the woodchips will be built below ground near the building’s entrance. The biomass energy system is expected to be fully functional by the end of the summer.The Montpelier-based Biomass Energy Resource Center, BERC, worked closely with National Life in the development of the biomass system. Currently there are more than 70 wood-burning biomass heating and cooling systems in use throughout Vermont, primarily in schools. National Life will be one of only a few commercial office buildings to use such a system.According to BERC, woodchip biomass systems are carbon neutral and have lower sulfur dioxide and net greenhouse gas emissions than both oil and propane. In addition, a sophisticated electrostatic precipitator and exhaust filtration system will remove on average 98 percent of any particles from the emissions, further minimizing any pollution. However, because the woodchips are green and nearly half water, occasional steam plumes may be released through the building’s emissions stack.According to Tim Shea, who spearheaded the project for National Life, “What is remarkable to me is that we’ll be heating approximately 500,000 square feet of building with the biomass system this winter and the emissions will only be that of about 12 woodstoves.” Shea said the new biomass system will cost approximately $2 million and will pay for itself in savings within five to six years.At National Life, environmental stewardship has been a long-standing commitment. In addition to the new biomass system there are numerous employee efforts to lessen the company’s impact on the environment, including recycling shredded paper for reuse as animal bedding and composting food waste. Other energy efficiency projects on the campus include installation of a 73kW solar photovoltaic system to help power the campus, a solar thermal system, water-saving fixtures in the restrooms, energy-saving light ballasts and bulbs, and more efficient air conditioners in the data center.Source: National Life. 5.12.2010 read more