Renewable energy credits, green power, energy-efficient equipment, and hybrid cars have emerged as solutions for organizations looking to cool their carbon footprint in the fight against global warming. But who truly benefits from these environmentally supportive ideas?If the vision of Jeffrey Frost, Co-Founder of the farm-centered AgRefresh, is clear, then the answer is Vermont family farmers, organizations that consume a lot of energy, the environment, and Vermont’s rural economy.Launched this past June, AgRefresh is a farm-ecology broker, a term that Frost coined when he started this company to explain how AgRefresh helps organizations offset their fossil fuel use while supporting agricultural sustainability. The company does this by selling credits called Pure Farm Energy ” (PFE) Shares to organizations that are seeking ways to become more environmentally friendly. AgRefresh offers this credit (i.e., PFE shares) based on farm projects that produce energy from agricultural products, by-products, and wastes or from other farm-owned sources such as wind, solar, or geothermal.”We’re a new kind of broker,” says Frost, “When organizations that consume large amounts of energy purchase Pure Farm Energy” Shares, they’re not buying the electricity itself, but something of greater value. PFE shares are actually a special sort of currency, representing all the added benefits of farm renewable energy. We truly see it as the currency of the future if businesses and other organizations are committed to staying true to their environmental consciences.”Unlike other environmental offset brokers, AgRefresh has a farm-centered business model that aims to put the welfare of the farmers who produce Pure Farm Energy” first. Frost explains, “We structured our business to guarantee that two-thirds of the money buyers spend for PFE Shares will end up in the hands of the farm project owners.”This commitment to farms is being noticed. Cara Taussig, Vermont Earth Institute Coordinator and resident of Common Pastures (Cohousing), stated, I was so excited when I heard about PFE Shares because their benefits are really local – “they are a unique way to accelerate Vermont’s use of sustainable, renewable energy sources and to boost farmers in our communities. Best of all, anyone can buy PFE Shares because they don’t require a huge investment to participate.”On September 30, AgRefresh signed on its second farm project — Nordic Farms in Charlotte, VT, the smallest Vermont farm to date to have an anaerobic digester producing new renewable electric power. Frost says that he has verbal commitments from three to four other farm projects that he expects will become clients by the end of 2006.AgRefresh is owned by two Vermont dairy farms: Jasper Hill Farm of Greensboro and Foster Brothers Farm of Middlebury. Jasper Hill Farm was purchased by its current owners in 1998, a year when Greensboro had lost five dairy farms. Since 2002 the farm has been producing award-winning specialty cheeses and has created a model for sustainable agricultural development. The Foster Brothers family dairy farm is operated in conjunction with Vermont Natural Ag Products, Inc. that produces the Moo-Doo line of bagged and bulk soil mixes and compost from area farms.To qualify as a producer of Pure Farm Energy”, a project must be farmer-owned, following strict USDA definitions for ranchers and agricultural producers. AgRefresh is distinct from other environmental offset brokers in the following ways as well:” Each PFE Share represents three times the greenhouse gas reductions of a typical renewable energy certificate.” When organizations buy PFE Shares, they are investing directly in new renewable farm energy projects. Indeed, AgRefresh has created a True New” policy ensuring that investments go towards carefully selected new renewable energy projects which produce renewable energy and carbon emission reductions which would not otherwise occur.AgRefresh has instituted an open book operation. Investors will be able to see how Share purchase money has been used. Frost says, “We operate with open books and hope to set an example for all environmental offset providers. We’re dedicated to showing people that their hard-earned money is creating positive environmental change in the face of global warming.AgRefresh has received tax-supported funding from USDA Rural Development.”AgRefresh also has its eye on the future on a larger scale. The company plans to bring their PFE Shares to a national market, with the intent to deliver funds to farms in numerous farm-energy source states.Frost will be part of a panel entitled Farm Energy at the Vermont Renewable Energy Conference on October 19 at the Wyndham Hotel. For more information on the conference go to http://www.revermont.org/conference.html(link is external).For more information on AgRefresh visit www.Agrefresh.org(link is external) or email [email protected](link sends e-mail).