KEESEVILLE, N.Y. — A small grant proved to be a big game-changer for an Adirondack farmstead brewery, which grows its own hops and fruits such as blueberries, black currants, elderberries and rhubarb for Belgian lambic-style beers.

Ausable Brewing Company used $1,500 to help pay for a solar hot water system consisting of solar panels and a 500 gallon-hot water storage tank.

The micro-grant, awarded last year, was one of several from the Adirondack Farmers program, administered by the Adirondack Council and its Essex Farm Institute.

“We already had a solar hot water system, but it was poorly installed and never worked well,” said Dylan Bader, brewery owner. “So we were planning to move the panels to a better location and add a much larger storage tank. But we quickly learned that our old panels were unusable, so the cost of the project suddenly jumped when we realized we needed to buy all new solar panels.”

“If it weren’t for the grant, I don’t know if we would have gone through with the solar system upgrade and installation,” he said. “Having a bit of extra capital to help pay for it made it easier for us to go through with the project. Now we’re using a lot less propane to heat up our water. It will still be at least 10 years before we see a return on investment, but we’re immediately burning less fossil fuels and creating less emissions.”

In addition to supporting local agriculture, this helps fulfill the council’s mission as the region’s largest environmental advocacy organization.

The council also sponsors the Essex Farm Institute, an education and research facility whose stated purpose to “train farmers to build resilient, diversified farms that are economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally beneficial.”

The council is currently seeking new applicants for the next round of grants, up to $5,000 each. Since its inception in 2016, the program has awarded more $91,000 to support 72 projects.

“Supporting Adirondack farms helps the local economy while protecting water quality, open space and wildlife habitat that isn’t common on the Forest Preserve,” said William C. Janeway, the council’s executive director. “Sustainable farms and local food are essential to the park’s quality of life.”

Ausable Brewing Company was founded in 2014, joining a fast-growing craft beverage industry that has boomed throughout New York state, buoyed in part by recent state legislation that eliminated burdensome regulations.

“We’ve been brewing and selling craft beer and house-made soda from our farmstead brewery since 2014,” Bader said. “For most of the year, we only sell our product on-site, which means we see a lot of locals and tourists all gathering here throughout the summer. We host local food trucks and live music, and we’ve created an atmosphere that is both kid and dog friendly. In doing so, we feel like we have become an important part of our local community, and we’re always striving to perpetuate that idea.”

Ausable Brewing Company was one of 14 local farms and four other small businesses that obtained grants last year.

These included Adirondack Hay & Grains ($1,000 to purchase GPS assisted steering), Christian Brothers Farm ($1,200 to build or buy a double-rake hitch to eliminate the use of a second tractor for haying), and DaCy Meadow Farm ($1,150 to purchase a WindyNation 300-water solar energy kit to passively power a new chicken coop).

Historically, the grant program has emphasized supporting farms with adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

For 2020, the scope has been broadened to include efforts to address climate issues and projects that support the overall environmental health of the Adirondack landscape and its communities.

The Klipper Family Fund helped to establish the program and continues to support it.

“Local farmers are eager to make changes that protect soil and water, or save energy,” said Courtney Klipper, fund co-founder. “But new investments and new methods can be risky for any business. Small grants to individual farms can help relieve some of that stress and encourage farmers to try new things. We are delighted to help them achieve their environmental goals through well-placed micro-grants.”

Grants are awarded for projects such as improving soil health or water quality, reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy.

All farms and value-added producers in the Adirondack Park are eligible to apply. Applications are due by March 31 and can be found at bit.ly/AdirondackFarmGrants

Awards are expected to be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

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