Paideia visit to the Cal-Gon Dairy

January 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm 2 comments

A group of us drove out to the Cal-Gon dairy farm near Salem on Jan 21 for a day-long visit.

Background. The idea for making this trip started last semester when we began reading and talking about how to use anaerobic digestion to convert biological wastes into fuels (biofuel). You can find some of these discussions at:

One of our group, Kassi D., mentioned that she worked for Portland Gas&Electric (PGE) last summer on a manure-to-methane project operated at the Cal-Gon dairy near Salem and could probably arrange a tour.

Paideia. Everyone loves the idea of having a fun Paideia experience and it seemed like that was the perfect time to arrange our visit, so Kassi and Laura B. did some planning (pick a day, call PGE & Cal-Gon, get us on the Paideia schedule) and then waited for interest to build (Field Trip to a Sustainable Farm).

The Day of the Trip. Unfortunately, the weather turned unusually cold on the day of the trip due to strong east winds blowing across the valley. The up side, though, was that this gave us uninterrupted sunshine for the entire trip along with great views of Mt. Hood, Jefferson, St. Helens, and maybe even Ranier (or was it Adams?) as we drove along I-5.

A dozen folks showed up at Eliot Circle at 10 am for the trip. Regulars: Laura B, Jordan K, Look T, Laura M, Alan S. And some new Reed friends: Erin W., Molly R., Melinda B., Matt S., Lara P., Isabel M., and Ethan K. Sadly, Kassi couldn’t make the trip because she had come down with a vicious cold. All that work! (Not to worry, she has already seen the farm.)

Following Kassi’s directions, we drove to Salem and pulled into a McD’s parking lot to await the arrival of Ed Rainey, PGE’s maintenance technician for the project. The farm is located just a few miles from the interstate and Ed led us directly to the manure digester and the electrical generating shed. We didn’t bring any cameras, but the Oregon Environmental Council has also visited Cal-Gon. You can see their photos:

  • manure digester Cal-Gon manure digester
  • Cal-Gon owner, Bernie Faber (blue shirt, dark hat), with visitorsDairy owner Bernie Faber (l) with visitors

Ed and Bernie were wonderfully patient hosts. They answered questions on topics ranging from generator maintenance, dealing with manure before and after, all the way to cow feed, antibiotics, hormones, bioethanol, and milking. (Question: guess how much Bernie currently gets for a newborn male calf? Mail your answers to Alan.)

After about 2 hours in the cold, it was time to admit that Ed and Bernie had some real work to do, and we had to rustle up some lunch. So we drove back to Salem, grabbed a table for 12 at a small Mexican cantina, ate a warm lunch (some of it got packaged up for later) and drove back to Reed.

Aftermath. For those who would like more information about the Cal-Gon/PGE partnership, there are many web pages describing the Cal-Gon digester/generator from different points of view:


Entry filed under: Meeting notes.

Focus the Nation on Global Warming event – Everything’s Cool, Jan 28, PCC Sylvania Next meeting Feb 15, F, 1 PM

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