County dairy farm may be impacted by solar project

A county dairy farm says it may be forced to downgrade or even close due to good farmland potentially being sold to solar project developers.

John and Laura Knight, along with Travis and Julia Olmstead, penned a letter on behalf of Mid-Knight Dairy LLC to the Chautauqua County Agricultural Farmland Protection Board. The farm is located at 3232 Fluvanna Townline Road in the town of Ellicott.

In their letter, they said they stand to lose well-drained, valuable ground that borders their farm that they’ve rented for 35 years. The landowners are apparently looking to lease the property for a solar farm.

“There is no land that even comes close to the caliper of ground that we would lose to a potential project,” they wrote.

The authors said they financially cannot compete with this type of development.

“We cannot place the blame entirely on our neighbor. Who would not jump at the opportunity to receive the amount of money that solar companies can pay? Their offer far exceeds anything in rent or even if we were to make an offer to buy the land ourselves,” they wrote.

Mid-Knight Dairy members added that should this land no longer be available, their costs to farm are going to go up and they’re going to be using more gas and oil. “If we lose this land we will have to pick up more land miles away.

We will spend far more money on fuel, tractor tires and labor. Again, more fossil fuel used all in the name of ‘clean energy,’” they wrote

And if they cannot find alternative land, other drastic measures may be taken. “If we cannot find suitable land we may be forced to sell cows or the farm due to a shortage of forages to feed our animals. A loss of a local farm like ours means more food will need to be transported from further away,” they wrote.

The dairy farm started in 1836 and has grown from 30 to 150 cows. “Good, close farmland is a crucial part of our family business. For many farms like ours losing prime cropland can be catastrophic,” they wrote.

Representatives with Mid-Knight Dairy said politicians must look at the big picture.

“We are not against renewable energy but we think that placing solar farms on prime farmland is shortsighted. How will we feed the rising human population if we destroy good farmland? We must protect our most valuable resource: land used for food production. We can live without many things in life, food is NOT one of them,” they wrote.

Steve Kimball, chairman of the county Agricultural Farmland Protection Board forwarded their letter to the county legislature. He said this is not the first time their board has received such comments.

“The potential negative effects of solar projects will be significantly felt by farmers as productive farmland is converted from agricultural uses,” he said.