Daily News photo/ALY GIBSON Dowagiac’s Blaske Farms owner Bob Blaske stands with his brand new, energy-efficient grain dryer Tuesday, which was purchased with partial grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmer upgrades with grant

Published 2:46pm Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thanks to a long, but rewarding, process, Carol and Bob Blaske, owners of Blaske Farms in Dowagiac, received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which aided in an upgrade to the farm.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced that 450 projects nationwide would receive grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of the total recipients, 20 reside in Michigan, which received $277,544. Blaske Farms was on the list as the only operation in Cass County to be approved for funding, receiving a total of $12,388. The funding, available through the Rural Energy for America Program, was geared toward farms that wanted to “reduce energy consumption and costs; use renewable energy technologies in their operation; and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects.” Farmers could make upgrades to equipment and processes with the funds if they were granted. The Blaske’s decided to apply for an upgrade to their grain dryer, which was more than 25 years old and still operated by gasoline.

“We had to apply for the grant and fill out a lot of paperwork,” Carol said with a chuckle Tuesday. “We ended up hiring a firm to help us write the grant application.”

The process began in August 2011 with Carol contacting Energy Improvement Matters in Indianapolis. Once all the paperwork was completed and submitted, construction began on the new grain dryer.

“It’s more like a reimbursement for 25 percent of what the new dryer cost us,” Bob said. “Everything had to be finished and submitted before we could start anything.”

When word finally arrived last week that the grant funding had been approved, Bob said he was surprised.

“I talked with a lot of other people who applied and they didn’t get it,” Bob said. “But I’m glad we got it; it helped replace an old and inefficient dryer.”

Bob, who farms mostly corn and soybeans, said this was the first time he applied for the grant, citing that the funds can go to various projects. While there isn’t a limitation on applying each year, Bob said he will wait.

“It’s really for anything energy-saving,” Bob said. “But we’ll wait until something is needed again.”

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