CHIP BAILEY: This is my 30th year farming since graduating from Cornell in 1984. And we have currently about 160 acres in apple production. We grow about 24 different apple varieties, and we pick, on average, about 165,000 bushels on that 160 acres.
On top of that, we're a net zero as far as our energy use. The renewable change, my wife, Carla, and I both decided on together. And my wife is a big part of our business. And meeting our net zero energy goals is something that we decided together, and we're both committed to.
I first began looking into renewable energy in the fall of 2001. The long and short of it, from 2001, it took me until 2009 to get that windmill up. A month after I put up the windmill, we installed our first solar system. We could kind of add on to that as we needed more power. So all our cold storages, shop, labor camp facilities here on the farm-- including my house-- is powered with renewable energy. And that reduces our carbon footprint.
On an annual basis, we produce about 180,000 kilowatt hours of power. So that would be enough, roughly, to power 18 homes on an annual basis. You look worldwide, there's not enough water and energy-- and food is right up there. We live in a plentiful land here, but you look worldwide, there's definite shortages. So those three things, I think there's always going to be a demand for.
And because we're a growing business, we've created our own demand. So why not produce it, and utilize it? I mean really, when you look at what we're doing growing apples, we're taking the energy from the sun and producing a crop of apples. So really, what we're doing is the same thing with the solar panels. Were harvesting the sunshine with apples-- or renewable energy.
Anything in life is gamble. And anything new, you're going to take some lumps over. And that's why I ended up calling it the bleeding edge, instead of the leading edge. Because you're going to get some cuts and scrapes and bruises when you're trying out these new things, but is there an economic benefit to going net zero? I would say, yes.
It's just-- you've got to manage your own timeline as far as the repayment. But it is a cost that you are going to pay to the power company every month, for the rest of your life. You don't want it to be a burden to your business. But I think that there is a way, and we've proven that here, that you can have it both ways.
And I think we have an obligation, as farmers and for stewards of the land, to provide for the next generation-- not just the next generation of farmers, but the next generation.
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Chip Bailey of KC Orchards in Williamson, NY discusses his motivation to switch to renewable energy. KC Orchards is an apple orchard that is a net-zero energy farm and is committed to growing and harvesting apples sustainably. The Climate Smart Farming videos are produced by the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and ConservationBridge.