Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Kathy Daley
Ben Goodrich is a seventh generation farmer on the land. In 1802, members of the Goodrich family from Connecticut bought a huge piece of property in Owego, N.Y. near Binghamton and started farming. They were descendants of the Goodrich family from England, who left by ship in the 1600s to land in New England.
In the Village of Owego, you can’t miss the name. There’s Goodrich Road, Goodrich Avenue, Goodrich Auctions, Goodrich farm. “Our house was built after the War of 1812,” said Ben, who is a humble man in spite of his ancestry. “It still has bark on the beams.” The oldest tavern in Owego was once on their land.
Ben himself was born in 1942. His farmer father raised Brown Swiss cows, known for their size and their rich milk popular for cheese-making. Father Goodrich was always winning first prize at the county fair. “Registered Brown Swiss cows and a John Deere tractor – that was him,” said Cindy Goodrich, Ben’s wife.
STUDYING UP ON SOLAR
Ben and Cindy raised their three children on the farm happily. But “the troubles” for farmers began in the 1980s with a glut of dairy products on the market and the U.S. government dropping milk prices. In 1994, Ben and Cindy gave up their dairy herd. Instead of sending their milk to a marketer, the family began raising heifers and selling corn and hay. Cindy continued to work as Commissioner for the Board of Elections in Owego. “That’s what wives do,” she said. “They work to support the farm.” But the financial squeeze continued. “At the end of the month, there’s not enough left over for you,” said Ben.
“Every time you think you just might be getting ahead, you have to go and spend money on a tractor,”
said Cindy. “And if you don’t pay the taxes you don’t have the farm.” Yet farmers don’t give up their lives, livelihoods and land easily. “Our farm i beautiful,” said Cindy. “We’re on top of the hill, and you can see the whole valley, the churches, the river. Our farm is everything for us. Once you sell it, it’s gone.” The concept of giving up the farm was unthinkable.
Cindy began researching possible scenarios for how to stay on the land. Then she read about a South Carolina farmer who had linked up with a solar company. “This is what we need to do,” she told Ben.
After a mass of research, Cindy found Delaware River Solar.
SOLAR PANELS DON’T STRAY
“I liked it that they were land conscious,” she said of DRS. “And that they wouldn’t move a tree without asking us. And that we’re all on a first name basis with them.” Ben was glad that the solar farm would produce clean power from the sun to the surrounding community. He felt good that the solar farm would be inspected every month by New York State and by NYSEG, which gains energy from the Goodrich project.
The Glen Mary Project, located on Glen Mary Rd. is actually home to two projects, Glen Mary I and Glen Mary II. The second project, Glen Mary II, won a NYSERDA ICSA award, which incentivizes solar projects that service low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents by providing a guaranteed 10% discount savings to the value of solar bill credits. 100% of Glen Mary II’s customer base serves LMI customers, which are a mix of LMI single-family homes and Section 8 housing developments.
The solar panels went up last November and December on 48 leased acres of the Goodrich’s 220-acre farm. The land-lease agreements have provided the farm family with a new lease on life literally. “Is it a miracle or what?” said Cindy. “Solar is the answer to keeping our county clean and the answer to global warming,” she said. “Get away from fossil fuel. Save the country. And the thought of helping farmers for the good of all is what we are about.” Their three grown children and grandchildren – all of whom live in the Owego area – couldn’t be more pleased. “We’re 58 years married, have gone through it all, and we plan on lasting it out,” said Cindy. “We have wonderful kids – Teresa, Benjamin and Rebecca – and five wonderful grandchildren. We have a new future. Because of Delaware River Solar, we know we can
keep the land for the next two generations.” And former dairy farmer Ben, who is approaching age 80, has a good reason for relishing his new life, and farmers can identify with it. “Now that we’re raising solar,” Ben said with a grin, “I don’t have to go out in the rain because a neighbor called me to come and get a solar panel that’s strayed off.”