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Ipswich, Topsfield farms receive sustainability grants

Mario Marini, owner of Marini Farm, with a corn stove that is used to heat one of the farm’s greenhouses.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File 2011

Mario Marini, owner of Marini Farm, with a corn stove that is used to heat one of the farm’s greenhouses.

State grants announced last week will help two farms north of Boston increase their sustainability and profitability.

On Tuesday, the governor’s office announced 27 grants totaling $325,000 to Massachusetts farmers to implement renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency on farms.

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With funds from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Agricultural Energy Grant Program, Topsfield’s Valley View Farm will receive $20,000 to help build a cheese cave, and Ipswich’s Marini Farm will receive $5,000 for a biomass incinerator.

“These grants will give our farmers the resources for economic success and drive our clean energy future,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a prepared statement. “They are a step in delivering on our goal to make Massachusetts a leader in the clean energy revolution that is sweeping the world.”

For Valley View Farm, a farmstead cow and goat cheese operation (valleyviewcheese.com), the grant is the second from the state this year. It earlier received a $25,000 farm viability grant, also from the Department of Agricultural Resources. Combined, the grants will cover half the cost of building the 16-by-30-foot underground “cave,” according to co-owner Liz Mulholland.

The structure is 3 to 4 feet underground, with cool temperatures helping to age the cheese naturally.

“Because of the cost, most cheese is aged in a modified walk-in unit with mechanical cooling units,” said Peter Mulholland, who runs the farm along with his wife and her mother, Mary Brown, whose family has owned the land since the mid-1970s. “This is geothermal. It’s using less energy because it’s letting the earth do it.”

The $5,000 grant was the first this year for the Marini Farm in Ipswich, but it has received three previous grants (two from the state and one from the University of Massachusetts) that it has put toward the purchase of other biomass incinerators, corn-burning furnaces that Marini is using to heat its greenhouses. Each incinerator costs about $20,000, according to Mike Marini.

There are 12 greenhouse buildings on the farm, covering about an acre. Marini said he has four furnaces installed, and will use the grant to help buy a fifth.

“We’re trying to convert all of our greenhouses from oil-burning to corn-heated,” he said. “It’s clean energy, and we plant corn for our corn maze, so we have fuel sitting out on the field.”

Marini noted that, planting in January, “we grew a whole crop of tomatoes without one drop of oil, which is awesome.”

E-mail Dave Rattigan at DRattigan.Globe@gmail.com.
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