Homegrown HideAways is more than just a farm. Located in the Appalachians of Berea, Kentucky, the 100-acre holler welcomes more than 2,000 guests per year and has more than a dozen listings on Airbnb. When Jessa Turner and her partner opened the center, they had plans of adding a solar panel to their community facility but the price of making their farm sustainable was a barrier they needed assistance to overcome.
“We were on an extremely tight budget, so we didn’t anticipate being able to add the solar for a number of years, but I wanted to ensure that we incorporated any future needs into the construction process so that we wouldn’t have to retrofit the building to add the system later,” Jessa said.
A USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Grant (REAP), which offers guaranteed loans and grants to rural small businesses to make energy efficiency improvements, was able to offset $5,000 to install a new solar system in their community facility. Though they knew this investment was important to their business, it was a risky upgrade to do in the middle of the pandemic in 2020, and it ultimately paid off.
“The new building has increased our ability to expand business opportunities on the farm and enabled us to transition from off-farm employment to working for ourselves full-time. Our guests love the new building, especially the accessibility features such as the ramp and wheelchair-friendly bathroom.”
Since completion in 2021, the installation of the solar system created an offset of 100 percent of their electrical usage. In addition, they hope to replace a seasonal bath house and include solar for electric and water heating. “If we are eligible, we will most certainly apply for another grant to help us make these important upgrades that enable us to walk the talk.”
Read more about Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Grant (REAP) to learn if your community or organization could benefit from the program.