November 2023 Newsletter

November 3, 2023

November 2023 Newsletter

Empowering Sustainable Communities

Thank You!

SEEDS Annual Meeting Put
Sustainability Where the Mouth Is  

The 2023 SEEDS Annual Meeting, which took place October 18 at The Community Room in Honesdale, chose a pot luck dinner format and reusable materials for serving in order to live by the principals of sustainability that lay the foundation of our organization.  Members brought prepared dishes, many using locally sourced ingredients, dishes, cutlery and cups—at least enough for their own meals and sometimes a little bit more to share, which added up to plenty to go around.

Before enjoying the delicious food, members heard from newly appointed Acting Chair Jamie Reeger and Executive Director Jess      Wolk, as well as from circle leaders who shared accomplishments from the previous year and plans for the future.  Additionally, we welcomed new board members, including newly appointed Beth Billyard as Assistant Chairperson, and elected Natalie Wasilchak as Secretary, Nancy Savage as Treasurer, and we reelected Board Member at Large Jocelyn Cramer.  Read more about newly elected, as well as already serving board members on the Board Members page of our website.  Members will be able to review the minutes from the meeting at the SEEDS website as soon as they are approved during the next scheduled board meeting.

Once the official parts of the Annual Meeting concluded, members dove in to the buffet style pot luck, enjoyed local bulk cider, wine, or locally sourced water
(plastic free!), and excellent conversation – some of which centered around ample recipe sharing! The meeting was a successful example of low waste, environmentally conscious gathering of people, and members look forward to continuing a tradition of sustainability in action in the future.

From the Food Circle

Updates, Upcoming Meeting and Turkeys!

As we reported at the Annual Meeting, the Sustainable Food Circle had minimal activities in 2023, just some new recipes and promotion of prior episodes of the Today’s Main Ingredient podcast.  The circle is looking for new ideas and energy to help further grow and promote the local sustainable food system. We need interested SEEDS members to help plan our 2024 programs at a circle meeting via zoom in early December.  Look out for more information on that meeting in this Newsletter and on our social media platforms.

Past Food Circle events have included farm tours, cooking demos and classes, tabling at farmers markets, and mutual fundraising with Wayne County Grown (local farming group) at the delicious and popular Farm & Chef social event in October 2022, in addition to the 25 Today’s Main Ingredient podcast episodes recorded in 2021. And speaking of local food! Have you seen farmers or products using the “AgroLegacy” branding or signage?   It’s a newly launched project of the Wayne Tomorrow Agriculture taskforce (where Jack Barnett represents SEEDS) to promote and certify that these are grown/raised locally. Support these local farms! And look for more participating farmers and businesses in 2024.

In the mean time, have you ordered your locally sourced, farm fresh turkey yet for Thanksgiving?  Check out these local farm sources for this year’s centerpiece bird:

Quails R Us Plus, Honesdale, PA
Check out their website and their Facebook page, and place an order for one of their Turkeys directly here.  They are at the Cooperage on Saturdays and will be at the Hawley Indoor Farmers’ Market on Fridays.

Two Creek Farm, Lakewood, PA
Find their website here, or go directly to their online store here to preorder.  They are already over half reserved, so don’t wait too long.  Check out their website for all of their locations.

Robinson Family Farm, South Canaan, PA
Check out their Facebook page, and find their contact info for an order there.

Be sure to share pictures of your locally sourced turkey with us at so we can share them on our social media platforms!


From the Desk of Holly Z.

There once was a girl who really wanted warm apple cider, a cider donut, and a chilly, fall day. It was me. I was that girl. However, the outdoor chill would always invite its way into my home and become the indoor chill. I was absolutely determined to rid the cold air and drafts from my home last year, so I decided to apply everything that I had learned as an intern for Home Energy Assessments in the summer of 2022 to my own home.

Like many people who want to make their home more energy efficient, comfortable, and cost effective, I knew this would be a great challenge, but I was ready for a change. I first started this challenge by beginning with the outside of my home. I checked for any air leaks in the exterior (and eventually the interior) of my home, filled in any air leaks around my windows and doors, and made sure that my windows and doors closed securely and tightly. I then checked the interior of my home. I searched the interior of the home by making sure my chimney was clean and the flue was closed when not in use, checking to see if our thermostat was programmable for optimum energy efficiency and lower costs, and finally sealing all gaps in my home’s insulation. By doing my at-home assessment, I was able to detect how, where, and why my home was cold in the chilly fall months.

By the end of the cold months last year, my family had saved great amounts of energy, money, and even our time! I now recommend to anyone who asks about SEEDS and the Free Home Energy Assessments that we offer to accept this offer so they can be comfortable, save money, and save energy just like my family. Like me, now you can enjoy the fall months with a warm apple cider, a cider donut, and a chilly fall day in the comfort of your own cost and energy efficient home.


Agrivoltaics: Double harvesting the sun
By Jack Barnett

This article was first posted on the River Reporter website October 18, 2023

I mentioned in passing the Penn State University’s large solar arrays in Franklin County use of agrivoltaics in my last  solar article for the River Reporter in July, and afterward got a request to explain that further.

Farming is harvesting sunlight
A farmer friend, Mac Stone, when explaining about his family’s highly diverse organic farm, once told me “Farming is all about collecting solar energy.”

He was reminding me that sunlight is the fuel not just for the plants they grow, but for everything higher up the food chain as well.

Here’s the progression: All grains, fruits and vegetables use photosynthesis to convert sunlight to energy for their growth and production. Farm animals (and all animals, including us humans) get their energy from eating grasses in the pasture, from stored hay or grains grown in other fields, or the embedded solar energy in any and all the other foods they eat.

The photovoltaic effect?
The photovoltaic (PV) effect is the process solar panels use to convert sunlight into electricity. In Mac’s way of thinking, any grid-tied PV solar array is farming (collecting sunlight), just producing a different product, electricity.

Agrivoltaics is the dual use of land under or alongside a solar array with active agriculture, such as crop production or animal grazing. Penn State’s arrays have sheep grazing under and between their panels, along with native pollinator-friendly plantings to help nearby farms, orchards and honeybee hives.

Research is on-going
According to Wikipedia, the practice of agrivoltaics, sometimes called agriPV, was first discussed in an academic paper published in 1982. But according to PV Magazine, American universities only started serious research into it about five years ago, as several practical examples were having success in Europe.

In agrivoltaics, the key is finding designs and best practices where electricity production and food production are both successful, and economically beneficial to both farmer and solar developer.

Some crops, e.g., wheat and other grains, don’t produce as well when sunlight is restricted (shaded by solar panels). But others, such as lettuces, brassicas, and some shade-tolerant or cooler growing crops, can benefit from having less direct sunshine and greater soil moisture, especially in hotter climates. Spreading out the solar array over more land area could allow more sunlight between panels, but would increase the cost to the developer, both during initial construction and on-going operations.

Grazing under the panels can save a developer on the costs of mowing. But some farm animals, such as cattle or goats, can damage solar arrays (or themselves), just as with trees or equipment left in their pastures. Whereas sheep, chickens and honeybees are seemingly compatible.

And then there are the practical issues such as equipment access between rows, managing stormwater runoff, reliable water supplies for animals or irrigation, and the types of fencing to use. Plus many insurance and legal issues.

Ready to produce
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, there are nearly 350 agrivoltaic projects nationwide today, totaling nearly 5GW in capacity, out of 153GW total installed solar. The vast majority, about 11,500 acres, are planted with pollinator habit. The Great Plains Institute claims more than 5,000,000 of current US farmland is a good candidate for agrivoltaics.

In May, Rutgers University in New Jersey announced a plan for up to 200MWs of agrivoltaics to be built over the next three years.

PV Magazine recently published an article about a new 2MW community-scale agrivoltaic project coming online next year near Poughkeepsie that will be growing strawberries, tomatoes and peppers, among other crops. The farmer and landowner in the interview cited frost-protection as another anticipated benefit.

Of course, farmers directly benefit whenever leasing their land to a solar developer for any type of solar array. The 25-plus years of contracted annual income will help keep a family farm in operation, providing a solid backstop to highly variable farm income and increasing operating expenses. Plus at the end of the lease, the land can be easily returned to active farming, unlike when farmland is sold for a warehouse or suburban development.

Agrivoltaics has a double harvest, generating mutual benefits to farmer and developer, as well as for our critical supply of both food and energy.

Jack Barnett is a retired electrical engineer and is now a volunteer solar energy and sustainable living advocate on the board of SEEDS of Northeastern PA ( He is also a co-founder of the Clean Energy Cooperative (www.CleanEnergy.Coop), an all-volunteer mission-oriented commercial-scale solar developer based in Honesdale, PA. 

Have questions about solar energy? Send them to and Jack will attempt to answer your questions in future Sustainability articles.


Want to Make Your House More Energy Efficient?
by Jamie Stunkard

What’s the most cost effective way to save money on heating and cooling costs while making your house more energy efficient?  I think most of us realize that more insulation is the answer. Before even thinking about putting solar panels on the roof, you should assess your house to find out how you can make it tighter. The question then becomes how can I do it?  When building a new home, this is just part of the construction process.  Beefing up the insulation in an older home can be much more of a challenge.   Even so, the best and easiest place to start is in the attic. As much as 25% of the heat loss or heat gain in most houses is through the attic. 

My son’s house in Colorado was about sixty years old when he moved into it.  Insulation wasn’t much of a thing back then and the house was pretty drafty, with a hefty heating bill to go with it.  Insulation in the attic had compacted to about 1 inch with virtually zero insulating potential.  Getting insulation into the crawl space was an arduous DIY project. Insulating the attic however, was a fairly easy one-day job.  That’s what I want to tell you about and encourage you to do in your house if you haven’t already.

First, consider the basics in insulating.  I did a fair amount of research with my oracle (the internet) and pulled together the information that seemed to have common consensus among quite a few websites.  Here’s what I found.

The codes for insulation in houses are continuing to change, even from state to state, as we realize the need to make our houses more energy efficient.  One easy-to-remember rule is  10 / 20 / 30 / 40; referring to the standard R-factor to shoot for, and starting with the lowest point of the house, R10 goes in the slab, R20 goes in the basement wall foundation, R30 goes in the walls and R40 goes in the attic,  with R5 for the windows and doors.  Of course, many homeowners looking for greater energy efficiency will be looking for ways to increase these numbers, sometimes putting as much as R60 – R70 in the attic space.  R-factor, as you probably know, refers to the ability to stop heat flow through a material or space.  The greater the number, the better your house will be insulated and resist heat transfer.  There are some discrepancies in the way R-factor is used to assess materials but it’s still a useful measure.

With this in mind,  let’s consider the primary insulating materials available out there: fiberglass, rockwool or mineral wool, cellulose, and foam.  Hempcrete is another up and coming material used for insulation, but we will just consider these other four for now.  Each of these materials has its pros and cons.

Fiberglass bats have been around since the 1930s. It’s some of the cheapest insulating material out there.  I remember stapling the itchy stuff between the 4 inch studs of the new home my family built in the 1960s.  It can be easily rolled out in the attic between the ceiling joists or stapled between the rafters.  Its greatest downside is the tendency to compact (which reduces its insulating capacity) and the air leakage around the edges of the bats which are difficult to seal tight against the studs or joists.  It is also produced from plastic reinforced with glass fibers so it is not an eco-friendly material, and it is not healthy to breathe in the fibers.

Rockwool or mineral wool is a natural product produced from basalt rock and slag.  It is nonetheless an energy intensive, manufactured product.  It has a greater R-factor per inch than fiberglass and it can be installed in a similar fashion.  It is also more expensive. Its primary downside is similar to fiberglass given the same vulnerability to air leakage around its edges.

Cellulose is made up of about 85% recycled paper material – mostly newsprint with borate added as a fire, mold, and pest retardant.  This makes it the most sustainable and cost effective material out of the various insulation options.  Its R value is about 3.5 per inch.  Someone with an R value of 10 already in their attic could blow in 9 inches of cellulose and get their R value up to almost 40.  This simple project would reduce their energy costs by nearly 25% and would pay for itself in less than 3 years–a no-brainer in my mind!  Cellulose also does a much better job of filling in all the air spaces compared to our other two options. Needless to say, don’t get it wet or you will have to replace it.  If it gets compacted, you can easily “fluff it up” to regain its insulating properties.

Foam comes as both open and closed cell.  This is your most expensive and unsustainable material for insulation.  Nonetheless, it does the job better than anything else, sealing out air penetration and providing thermal mass as well.  You could have this sprayed into the walls or attic and crawl space. You can also buy sheets which can be cut to fit between the joists and sealed with foam around the edges.

25 lb. cellulose bundles have a going cost of about $17.  Just for simple calculating, a 1000 sq. ft attic space would require about 40 bundles to get an R-value of 30. If you have R-10 insulation in your attic already, then you are up to 40.  But while you’re there, why not get some extra bundles and bump it up to 50 or 60?  That’s what we did.  Home Depot provides a free rental spray hopper when you get a quantity of cellulose; it’s provided with a hose long enough that you can mount it outside and bring the hose up into the attic space.  Two people are needed for the job, but three makes it even better.  Wear your old work clothes for this project, get some good eye protection and a good face mask–there will be a lot of dust flying around in the attic and in the summer it will be very hot.

But wait! Before you get down to business, there are some preliminary measures that need to be attended to ahead of time.  There are a lot of potential points of air infiltration into an attic which should be sealed.  This includes electric boxes coming up through the ceiling, pipes, chimneys, recessed lighting, bathroom ventilation fans, etc.  You can get special insulated boxes for the recessed lights to keep the cellulose away from the heat generated around this space, or you can make your own box from rigid foam insulation.  Other holes and spaces can be filled with spray foam.   Once you’re set up, it’s just a matter of one person keeping the hopper full of loose cellulose while the other person hangs out in the attic and directs the hose into every nook and cranny they can find.  The third person keeps up the communication and helps for trade-offs.  Like I said, this is less than a day’s job for decades of warmer winters.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is the tax credit of 30% that you can get taken directly off your taxes. That’s some additional motivation to get this project moving!

More could be said, but I will leave you with a few links for inspiration and motivation.

Jamie Stunkard is a SEEDS member and a board member of the Clean Energy Coop.  He believes in critical mass, “At some point in the near future, there will be enough sustainability momentum that everyone will be inspired to jump on.”

If you are not a member of SEEDS, please consider joining us today!
You can use this link to share our membership page with others: 
You will continue to receive our newsletters, invitations to our educational forums and other events. Members are eligible for free solar evaluations, have voting rights at our annual meeting, and help shape our programs and initiatives.  For more information visit our website at