Grown Here at Home: Pittsylvania County farmer expands farm operation with solar grazing
PITTSYLVANIA CO., Va. (WDBJ) - “Two of the biggest obstacles to getting into farming – with people of any background – is access to land and operating capital,” explained Marcus Gray, owner of Gray’s LAMBscaping. So, when he noticed solar farms popping up, he saw an opportunity.
“We started a conversation with Dominion and, some of the other companies that are building the sites for Dominion, and tried to figure out how we can get on these places early,” Gray said.
He now has his sheep on several of Dominion Energy’s solar farms.
“Solar that is being built on farmland, or former timber land, that we can bring sheep on, is just a game-changer. We’re getting access to thousands of acres that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get on, we wouldn’t be able to afford, and we’re actually being compensated to be there because we’re providing a vegetative maintenance service,” Gray explained.
The sheep are getting the nutrition they need, and the solar panels don’t bother them a bit.
“Having more pasture and more diverse pasture is great. They like to eat broad leaf plants – wildflowers that people would consider weeds, they’re getting all the nutrients they need, and are gaining weight. They’re having lambs out here. The shade the panels provide is great for their comfort level. The sheep are providing environmental benefits as well – adding nutrients into the soil, diversity in the planting can support more bees and butterflies, and adding nutrients into the soil to sequester carbon,” Gray said.
Two years ago, Gray’s LAMBscaping started out with 25 adult females, and now they have nearly 800 sheep.
Gray explained, “You just can’t overstate the chance here people have to grow an operation and to get into this. Even if you want to take the revenue from your sheep enterprise and re-invest it, you can diversify your own revenue streams so that you can do what you want to do.”
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