Tioga County farm using efficient, creative energy method

The 750-acre farm in Tioga County is not like many of the agricultural operations of the area, although at first glimpse nothing appears out of the ordinary.

The evidence to the contrary can be found atop a small hill of the sprawling pig farm — the site of a large disc-like object. It’s not a small flying saucer hidden away in a rural outpost, but rather, a key component of the anaerobic digester system that takes animal manure and spoiled food waste and converts it into fuel and fertilizer.

Lisa Remley said the renewable energy producing plant at her family farm, near Roaring Branch, simply made sense.

“We knew we had a lot of manure,” she said with a laugh.

Lisa and her husband, Drew, had been running the business for a number of years when they came upon the concept of putting all that pig manure to use.

They researched the concept of producing renewable energy. They applied for funding.

Interesting enough, most banks in the region were not keen to the idea. But the couple refused to give up.

Eventually, they secured grants from USDA Rural Development, NRCS, and the Commonwealth Finance Authority of Pennsylvania.

Fulton Bank also came through with financing.

“It was a long process, but it came together,” Drew said.

The system went on line in February.

State officials, who visited the farm earlier this month, hailed the farm operation for its economic and environmental benefits.

“The connection between agriculture and the economy is great,” state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said. “They have the right match here.”

Diversification of the agricultural operation led to additional employees at the farm.

And Drew and Lisa are happy to see their three grown children working at the farm too.

At a time when many family farms continue to disappear from the American landscape, the farm is not only alive and well, but flourishing.

“We knew we needed something creative to expand,” Lisa said.

Redding called the farm a true “economic enterprise.”

“To see this expansion is a really great day,” he said.

Ryan Emerson, of the state Department of Conservation and Economic Development, Alternative & Clean Energy Program, touted the environmental benefits of the operation.

“This was a good fit,” he said.

The digester recycles manure nutrients to improve the local watershed. It also reclaims nutrients from food waste to grow more food and improves air quality by eliminating odors and greenhouse gas emissions.

Drew said the farm uses 33 kilowatts of electricity for its operations. Another 130 kilowatts produced is sent back to the power grid.

He said it’s all part of thinking out of the box.

“It has allowed us to grow,” he said. “We are unconventional for this area.”