St. Louis Thies Farm & Market struggles to shift to climate friendly tractors

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Thies Farm & Market’s Darrell Thies said solar and electric tractor options are too expensive for the business.

Darrell Thies of Thies Farm & Market said that the reason why the farm grows its products on site is to keep transportation at a minimum, saving energy and making money.

One of Thies Farm & Market’s challenges with growing locally has been cost, especially with tractors and reducing fossil fuels.

“[Solar and electric tractors] are too expensive,” Thies said.

Prices for an electric tractor by Solectrac rack up to be just under $27,000. The brand’s tractor is also compact.

A diesel engine tractor is still pricey, but John Deere sells a compact tractor. This tractor runs anywhere from $13,000 to $16,000. At a minimum, using a diesel tractor saves $11,000 at purchase.

“We save energy by growing locally … Everybody is going to have to gradually move to electric [tractors] over the next 10 years,” Thies said.

Photo by Pixabay.

However, with current costs, Thies said his business doesn’t have room in its budget to spend extra on solar equipment instead of using the equipment the farm has now.  Something as simple as adding solar panels to a normal size house can cost $2.59 per watt or over $14,000 for an “average” sized home.

Thies Farm & Market sells all sorts of fruits and vegetables. From April to the middle of June, customers can find asparagus, spinach and bedding plants. Once July hits, customers can purchase greens like cabbage and lettuce.

In the fall months, Thies Farm & Market sells pumpkins and sweet potatoes, along with other fruits and vegetables that can survive the cold. From the middle of November until the end of the year, Thies Farm & Market sells Christmas Trees and Poinsettias.

When going into Thies Farm & Market, the prices on some foods can be cheaper than the grocery store. For instance, cabbage at Thies Farm & Market currently is .75 cents per pound. At a local grocery store like Schnucks, cabbage currently runs at .84 cents per pound.

Even though .08 cents doesn’t seem like much, restaurants buying many pounds of cabbage save .08 cents a pound. At 12 and a half pounds, a person or restaurant can save over a dollar.

Melanie Lamb, an environmental science professor at Webster University, said, “If I was going to talk to an individual about efforts to reduce climate change, I would let them know that all efforts, large and small, can have positive impacts on reducing emissions and slowing climate change.”

“Careful choices of products we purchase, investing in companies that provide transparency and positive and sustainable environmental products/services, the types of vehicles we drive and generally reflecting on the impacts our lifestyle can have on the environment are efforts all can make to reduce emissions,” Lamb said.

The problem facing many companies still remains, though. The “careful choice of products” are too expensive. Thies said the first adjustment can’t be made by Thies Farm & Market, but by companies like Solectrac. If Solectrac can decrease the cost of its tractors, farms like his could more easily move to climate-friendly machinery.

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