40 Acre Cooperative builds wealth with solar-powered hoop houses

April 2023

“In 1920 there were 1 million Black farmers. Today we have lost 98% of this vital population, creating a crisis in agriculture that spans industries and communities across the country, and impacting every part of our food system.”

Angela Dawson co-founder, president, and CEO, 40 Acre Cooperative

40 Acre Cooperative is proud to be the first national Black farmer co-op since the reconstruction era in the United States. 

It starts with us, and it only grows from here. Together, let’s never stop giving back! –40 Acre Cooperative website

solar powered greenhouse fanBased in Sandstone, Minnesota, 40 Acre Cooperative is using solar power as a cost-saving strategy to extend the growing season in its northern climate.

“In our neck of the woods the seasons change so much that some of our crops can’t grow out in the fields,” says Angela Dawson co-founder, president, and CEO of Forty Acre Cooperative. “With hoop houses we can keep the plants warm longer and close everything up when we need to.” 

With support from a CERTs Seed Grant, five 100 watt solar panels were installed. 40 Acre Cooperative has four different hoop houses, all of them now outfitted with solar. Learn more about hoop houses from our partners, UMN Extension.

“The way (the hoop house) was designed, it has a fan, a thermostat, and a light deprivation curtain we can open and close,” Angela explains. “We can control the light and the air flow with the solar technology.” 

40 Acre Cooperative has shared the findings from their solar work with other co-op members, farmers across the upper Midwest, attendees at the 2022 Indigenous Farming Conference, as well as at their Juneteenth event.

Control box of solar powered light deprivation curtainTheir advice for other farmers includes:

1. Have an energy audit assessment done at your property.

2. Talk to farmers who have used solar on their farms.

3. Visit a farm site that grows your type of crop and uses alternative energy.

4. Don’t sacrifice quality for price when it comes to sourcing equipment and reputation of the manufacturers.

5. Make sure you have a reliable power source, and if you live off the grid have a back-up to that back-up source.

Angela sees a bright (pun intended!) future for solar.  “Since we found success with the hoop house project we are now looking to extend the concept to our mobile greenhouse container unit. We are setting up our farm plans so it is easy to transition to solar when we can do it.” 

40 Acre Cooperative - Solar Powered Hoop Houses for Crop Protection

Clean Energy Focus: Solar for growing season extension

Northeast CERT Seed Grant: $5,500

Energy Generated Each Year: 274 kWh

People Involved and Reached: 103

Sign up for Energy Stories

We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.