EVERSON, Wash. -- When Mariah and Shawn Butenschoen, owners of Breckenridge Blueberries and Probably Shouldn’t Distillery, tossed around the idea of using solar energy, they followed two philosophies that they have adopted in their time as farmers.
Over the years, the Butenschoens were told they probably shouldn’t do a lot of things. “We were told we probably shouldn’t open a blueberry farm...and then we were going to go organic and we were told we probably shouldn’t do that, and low and behold we did it,” says Mariah, “When we were messing with the idea of a distillery we were told you probably shouldn’t quit your job and open a distillery, but we did it anyway.”
Beating the odds helped them develop the philosophy that although they ‘probably shouldn’t’ do a lot of things, they still can succeed at them anyway. Not only did it give them a motto to follow, it created a unique name for their distillery, which crafts a variety of spirits using their blueberries and other Washington products.
The second philosophy is one that has been important to the Butenschoens from the beginning. Their philosophy to be green and protect the environment is something that farmers across the world know to be a valuable foundation for a farm business.
When it came to choosing solar, they wondered if they probably shouldn’t, but they did it anyway since solar energy on their farm fit with their philosophy. Working with Ecotech Solar and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the dream came true.
As Ty Chang with Ecotech Solar puts it, “There’s a natural fit between solar and farmers”. Farmers understand the value of growing their own food and creating renewable energy follows that same path.
The Butenschoens, who own a small organic farm, felt that this pathway gave them the opportunity to promote a future for farming through sustainability. “We are already doing our best to keep from polluting our world, by doing this small part we make a difference,” says Mariah.
With help from Ecotech Solar and REAP, which provides grants and loans for rural small business and agriculture producers, the couple was able to install a renewable energy system and make energy improvements to their business. The solar energy on their land now covers about one-third of the energy used in total including their shop, farm, and house.
In the meantime, Mariah and Shawn aren’t the only ones who enjoy the solar energy improvement. Distillery customers who come in find it eccentric that a small business would have such a different approach. Yet, as Chang points out, farmers have the incentive to do something like this, not only to help the environment, but also for the future and legacy of their farm.
“The future of solar electricity on farms just keeps looking brighter,” says Chang.
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REAL Environmental Action & Leadership is an effort by Whatcom Family Farmers - Education to help the greater Whatcom County community work together to continually improve environmental practices, and for increased awareness of the family farming community’s Real Environmental Action and Leadership. Whatcom Family Farmers - Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.