Karl Klessig: Protecting land for the sixth generation

“Our farm was homesteaded in 1850 by my great-great-grandparents, Friedrich August and Elizabeth Klessig.”

“My brother, Robert and I are fifth-generation farmers. He and his wife Kathleen, and my wife Liz and I are the owner-operators of Saxon Homestead Farm. We have a sixth generation on the way.”

“About three years ago, we got a letter from a community solar developer telling us about community solar and it sparked our interest. We called them and learned about community solar, and about what they’re doing with their five-megawatt solar farms. And that was very appealing to us.”

“Because the project isn’t big, it’s only 25 to 30 acres, it fits into our operation. We graze 700 acres for our youngstock and milking cows and we’re discussing raising the panels so they can graze underneath. It would essentially allow us to double-crop that land to harvest the sun’s energy and allow livestock to graze.”

“Renewable energy is the direction our country is going and the replacement of fossil fuels is, is something that I think the average American, is well in tune with and supportive of. For us, it’s really important that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem, so we’re putting up something that’s highly sustainable over time.”

“When we first decided to move forward with solar, I had no idea that the state of Wisconsin did not allow the smaller community-run operations independent of a utility company. We know how strong the utility lobbying block is, so it’s not an easy climb up that hill, but I think our state legislature will change it because it makes sense – especially for the smaller operations. I hope the legislators take a look at the bill this year and go ahead and support it.”

“There’s a lot of kickback when the utility companies put in 700 or 1,000 acres of solar panels because that’s very disruptive in agricultural neighborhoods. There’s not full support from the rural community when you take that much land out of production. That’s why these smaller community solar operations have much more appeal, which is really important for us. We want to have a good plan so we can get buy-in from everyone”.

“The solar operation offers more income per acre than cropping it and using it for livestock production, so that’s a big plus, but it’s certainly not the only reason why we’re interested in developing a solar operation.”

“Our farm is very supportive of a solution to the energy situation. Long term, our country needs to push forward on renewable energies. It just has to happen – and it is happening.”

Karl Klessig
Manitowoc County, Wisconsin

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