North Wisconsin Farm Still Recovering from February Winter Storm
Thankful Focus on Energy was there to Help during Tough Time
Strum, Wis. – “We’ve never been through this kind of storm disaster before. It was just devastating. We are still cleaning up stuff.”
Gary Gullicksrud, an owner of Hamlin Valley Farms in Strum, was away from the farm when the storm hit in late February. He hurried back when he heard what happened and he vividly remembers the feeling.
“You felt helpless because you couldn’t do anything. Everything… things just kept coming down.”
Heavy, wet snow collapsed the roof of four buildings at the family-owned farm, one of many in northern Wisconsin that saw record February snowfall that led to at least partially collapsed roofs.
“Luckily, we had the crews we work with. They came in with big equipment and helped us get the snow off the roof and get the roof off the cows,” Gullicksrud explained. “We did lose a little over 60 cows and we ended up selling about another 60 just due to the injuries from the storm.”
Gullicksrud is thankful the milking facility held up in the storm, which allowed the farm to keep running in some capacity.
“We’re still not quite back up to normal operation yet. It’s been a long process,” he added.
That process included several projects with FOCUS ON ENERGY®, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resources program. Following the winter storm, Gullicksrud heard about Focus on Energy’s Farm Disaster Bonus on the radio.
The bonus was an extra 25% on top of Focus on Energy’s regular financial incentives to help farmers upgrade to more-efficient equipment – things like LED lights, waterers and circulation fans. The limited-time bonus was available to Wisconsin farms facing reconstruction due to a natural disaster in 2019 and who are customers of one of the 107 Wisconsin utilities that partner in Focus on Energy.
“We talked with the company we were buying [new equipment] from. They checked into it for us and then a Focus on Energy rep came out and he really helped us out.”
Energy Advisor Kevin Weiler helped the farm identify replacements for equipment lost in the storm that were
energy-efficient and qualified for the Farm Disaster Bonus. Hamlin Valley Farms took advantage of the bonus and purchased livestock waterers, 60 LED light fixtures, and dozens of energy-efficient ventilation and circulation fans.
“Being that we had to go through this process of rebuilding everything, we wanted better air quality. And with the help of Focus on Energy, we decided we would put fans on each end and tunnel to ventilate it from the middle to the ends,” Gullicksrud explained. “Hopefully, by next summer, we will see the benefits from the better air quality, because this summer we didn’t get everything up and going like we wanted to.”
The farm received Focus on Energy’s normal financial incentives for the energy-efficient equipment purchased, totaling $24,190, plus the $6,047.50 bonus incentive. In addition, the upgrades covered under the bonus are expected to save Hamlin Valley Farms nearly $50,000 annually in avoided energy costs.
The projects also lower Wisconsin’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, with the estimated lifecycle energy savings from the Farm Disaster Bonus project at Hamlin Valley Farms being 5,268,562 kilowatt hours of electricity. The federal government estimates one would have to burn more than 4,072 pounds of coal to create that much electricity.
A recent third-party evaluation noted Wisconsin runs the most cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation. It also found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates more than $5 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced pollution and reduced energy costs.
About Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.
Photo: Before and after photos of Hamlin Valley Farms.