Renewable energy, grass-fed beef key themes of local KFU tour stop

About 55 people gathered Thursday afternoon at the farm home of Herb and Pat Bartel about four miles northeast of Hillsboro to hear about the way the couple is using solar and wind power to reduce their ?carbon footprint? in the world by reducing dependency on electricity produced by fossil fuels.

They also heard about the cooperative relationship the Bartels have with Jason Schmidt of rural Newton to use their land for a grass-fed beef program.

Both topics were the focal point of a tour organized by the Kansas Farmers Union, based in McPherson.

?Renewable energy in the form of wind and solar just has to be in the future of our civilization,? said Donn Teske, KFU president. ?It?s non-polluting, and after the initial cost, it?s free besides maintenance.

?With the choke hold the big boys have on the grid system here in Kansas, any form of community-owned wind and solar is about going to have to be at the farm level itself.?

Herb Bartel said their system of alternate-energy production includes a 2.6 kilowatt solar unit on the west side of the farmyard and a 2.4 kilowatt wind turbine mounted atop a 45-foot tower just east of the yard.

He said the two systems cost a combined $21,000 after tax credits were applied. The system has generated an average of 400 kilowatts on their farm. On occasion, the Bartels? bill from the Flint Hills Rural Electric Association has been as low as the $15 minimum charge.

?It?s the best investment we ever made,? Bartel said with a smile.

Asked about the return on his investment, Bartel said, ?We?re not in this to save money. We?re concerned about our carbon footprint.

?My payback is I?m concerned about the health of living things first. It?s not about money in the bank, but the need for a transition to renewable energy.?

Bartel challenged his listeners to see his system as merely a starting point.

?I want you to think big scale, not the 2.6-kilowatt (solar unit) that I?ve got,? he said. ?If you want payback, think big.?

When the topic moved to grass-fed beef, Schmidt, who met Herb Bartel at the Kansas Rural Center, described his effort to finish cattle on a volunteer wheat and red clover forage mix, using rotational grazing to maximize the nutrition for the calves.

Schmidt said he also has planted oats, cow peas and winter peas, which, combined with native grasses, provide ?an excellent smorgasbord? for the cattle.

By not using grain and mineral supplements to enhance weight gain, Schmidt said, ?I?m trying to cut out as much fossil fuels as possible.?

In addition, he said there?s a growing interest among consumers in grass-finished beef.

Mary Howell, a KFU member specialist, agreed.

?All lean beef is very nutritious, provides great protein, iron, vitamins and minerals to improve and maintain good health in a balanced diet.?

Schmidt said rotation grazing has some benefits for the Bartels, too.

?Herb sees my cattle partially as weed control, since he?s organic.?

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Senior Scribbles (Nov. 20, 2013)
HILLSBORO SENIOR CENTER Haris Zafar will be here at 11 a.m. Wednesday,...
Read More