The Richmond Register

October 2, 2013

8th Annual Solar Tour and Resilient Community Fair Saturday in Berea

Register Staff Report

BEREA — As the only city in Kentucky to have a community-owned solar farm, Berea’s eighth-annual Solar Tour scheduled Saturday is an opportunity to see how solar energy already is being in used in Berea, as well as its potential use in everyday households.

But this year, the Solar Tour will be accompanied by the first Resilient Community Fair, which will include educational booths to provide practical information people can use to make their houses, neighborhood and communities more resistant to environmental and economic impacts, said Cheyenne Olson of Sustainable Berea, the community organization hosting the event.

The event also will feature plenty of food, entertainment and activities for all citizens ― even the furry four-legged ones (see below for details).

Teaching people how to grow their own food and use alternative energy sources are just a few steps to building a resilient community, Olson said.

“A resilient community is one that is closely knit, where people know their neighbors, where the elderly and children are included, where food is grown and shared, and where people live with considerably less energy from fossil fuels,” she said.

A resilient community also is one in which you can “enjoy walking, biking and creating art and music without having to drive out of town for entertainment,” she added. A resilient community can thrive if the “(electrical) grid is blown or if the trucks stop coming in with food.”

Olson said one of the biggest reasons for hosting the fair is to bring people together to have conversations about what they want to see in their own town.

Representatives from the Berea Planning Commission also will be at the fair to collect input from Berea residents regarding land use throughout the city (see below for details).

8th-annual Solar Tour

The Solar Tour provides a look at some of the city’s “best examples of solar households,” said Richard Olson of Sustainable Berea.

The solar events kick off at 8:30 a.m. at the Berea College Appalachian Center, 205 N. Main Street, with coffee, pastries and the chance to chat with a variety of people interested in solar energy.

At 9 a.m., local resident Mark Jeantheau will draw on his years of personal experience to describe steps that any person can take to make their household more resilient in the face of economic or environmental shake-ups.

During the 2009 Solar Tour, Jeantheau talked about the January 2008 ice storm that hit Kentucky and left many without power for weeks.

“Our electrical grid is in poor shape, and more power outages are inevitable. A well insulated house with a wood stove and a battery back-up system to run some lights and the refrigerator will come through the next winter power failure just fine,” he said.

A stop at Jeantheau’s home is part of the Solar Tour, which will be lead by Josh Bills, a solar energy expert with Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.  

The tour bus is scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. from the Appalachian Center. The first stop is the Berea Municipal Solar Farm, which Bills helped to design. This 28,200 kW system, the only community solar installation in Kentucky, gives Berea Municipal Utility customers the ability to lease individual solar panels and receive credit for solar electricity on their utility bill.

The bus will then stop at Jeantheau’s resilient household for an in-depth look at all types of residential solar energy as well as rainwater capture, household food production and food storage.

For a self-guided tour, five solar households will be open between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tour sites include an older retrofitted solar house, a new house designed for solar, and a household that sits at the center of a permaculture farm. One of the households includes a solar greenhouse containing an aquaponics system producing tilapia and vegetables.

All events are free except the guided bus tour, which is $5 per ticket with reservations strongly recommended.

 For bus tickets, call Sustainable Berea at 985-1689.

Complete information about the solar tour, descriptions of each tour site, and a map are available at Maps may also be found at Berea Coffee and Tea in Berea, and Babylon Café and Elvira’s restaurant in Richmond.

First Resilient Community Fair

Fair events run from noon to 4 p.m. at the Berea Tourism Center in Old Town off North Broadway.

In addition to informational booths on creating a resilient household, the fair will feature several activities.

Rocket stoves, made by Rob Fairchild of Berea will be used to cook food grown and prepared by Growing Warriors, a program to teach veterans how to grow their own food, said Cheyenne Olson.

Rocket stoves have fires created with small pieces of wood and are used in places around the world where people have no electricity or gas for cooking, she said.

At the fair, people can see how to make their own rocket stove and some will be available for purchase as well.

Berean Linda Cope is preparing a 100-pound, 3 foot by 4 foot cake that looks like a street in honor of Sustainable Berea’s Edible Streets Project. The project includes planting fruit and nut trees across the city to increase its food supply.

Two neighborhoods are in the process of creating their own “edible streets.” Affordable housing non-profit Fahe has committed to growing an orchard as well as Berea Community School, Olson said.

Half of the proceeds from Truman Field’s home-baked pie auction will go toward the school’s farm and garden projects.

Those who can contribute a home-baked pie for the auction may drop it off between 11 a.m. and noon in exchange for six raffle tickets for the Sustainable Berea Super Raffle.

The Super Raffle includes only five items and each is valued at more than $100.

Raffle items include a rain barrel painted by local artist Neil DiTeresa; dinner for two at Boone Tavern coupled with a gift certificate for Berea College Crafts; and two season tickets to the Berea Arena Theater coupled with a gift certificate to Berea Coffee and Tea.  

Tickets to the raffle will be sold during the week prior to the event and during the fair. The raffle will be drawn at 4 p.m. at the fair and you need not be present to win.

At 1:30 p.m., all animals are invited to the “blessing of the animals,” an event that honors St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Blessings will be given by Union Church associate pastor Rachel Small Stokes in different religious traditions.

Therapeutic horses LeRoy and Woody also will be in attendance. People will be able to meet the horses and talk to volunteers about riding lessons, the work the horses do with therapy, and how the horses are trained.

At 2 p.m., around 50 members of the Berea College Concert Choir will emerge from the crowd for a free street performance.

Community members also will have the opportunity to discuss ways to make Berea a better place to live during a open space exercise led by University of Kentucky doctoral student John Johnson.

Fair-goers can stop by the Urban Farm booth to learn about a proposal for a Berea Urban Farm and Community Food Center, a collaboration of Sustainable Berea, Berea Tourism and the Berea College Agriculture and Natural Resources program.

 “This is a unique opportunity to develop in Old Town an urban farm for food production, job creation, and education,” said facilitator Richard Olson. “We are just starting to consider the possibilities, and would like to hear what people in Berea would like to see as part of such an enterprise.”

Following up on this year’s successful Adopt-a-Potato Project, people can adopt one of 32 heirloom bean varieties, purchased from Bill Best, to grow next summer as part of Sustainable Berea’s Adopt-a-Bean Project.

The Adopt-A-Potato Growing Guide and Recipe Book 2013 will be available for $5.

The event also will feature a silent auction to help cover the cost of the event. Community members are encouraged to donate not just useful and functional items, but services as well, such as a cooking class or a session on building raised beds. The silent auction will include a magic class and a chance for a half-day run with Jim Bowman, who is training for his second Boston Marathon.

Admission is free, but adults can pay $5 for freshly prepared food, desserts and drinks. The cost is $2 for children under age 10.

Public invited to contribute to Berea comprehensive plan

Representatives from the Berea Planning Commission will be at the fair to collect input to update Berea’s comprehensive plan.

A significant element of the plan is a fresh look at how land within the city will be developed through the year 2033.

The plan will serve as a guide for commission members and elected officials as they make future zoning and development decisions in Berea.

A representative of the Update Committee will be on hand to present preliminary results of the group’s research and discussions so far and will be asking for input regarding land use throughout the city.

Those who are unable to attend may submit ideas using the citizen input form available at Input will be accepted through Oct. 11.