Photo by Bill DeLillo, SARE

by Cooking Up a Story

Roger Rainville is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing costs on his farm near Alburgh, Vermont. He’s currently producing biodiesel for about $1.70 a gallon.

That savings, and his profit margin, are going to be even greater if energy and fuel prices continue to rise as they have been recently. Rainville first got interested in oilseed production when University of Vermont Extension approached him about growing canola seed on his farm. Initially, Rainville thought the canola could provide a good source of feed (canola meal) for his cows, with oil production simply a side-benefit. Over several years, however, Rainville’s thinking was transformed as he realized the potential for producing his own biodiesel.

Starting from the initial questions about growing canola in Vermont, the project has grown to include a major emphasis on biodiesel production. As shown in this video, Rainville himself led that charge developing expertise in production, harvesting, processing and storage of canola (and sunflower) oil. He also fine-tuned the technical side of converting that oil into biodiesel fuel for use on the farm. Now it’s the seed meal and the harvest residue that are byproducts.

As the economic and environmental incentives attract more farmers to this technology, Rainville cautions that farmers should try out oilseed and biofuel production on a small scale first, before making any major changes or investments in equipment. Watch the video and learn more to see if biodiesel production might be adapted to your farm or ranch system. A summary of the video, Steps in Biodiesel Production, is also available.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program’s mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. SARE is proud of its connections to farming communities across the country and encourages those who wish to learn more to visit the site. SARE is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA.

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