NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine — When Jeffrey Marstaller turned 40 in 1995, his back went out, and he spent a week lying on the floor.
It gave the landscaper plenty of time to think about what he was going to do with his life. He couldn’t keep pushing wheelbarrows.
But then an idea came to him.
“I said, ‘greenhouses,’” he recalled. “‘Let’s do greenhouses out back.’”
Two decades later, with several greenhouses on his property, and a unique addition on the way, that’s turned out to be a good idea.
So much so that Cozy Acres Greenhouses, which Marstaller runs with his wife, Marianne, was the place Sept. 6 where the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program announced grants to 10 Maine farms and businesses.
The Cozy Acres Lane business is wholesale only, producing annuals, herbs and vegetables for area garden centers and landscapers. It received USDA funds last year, and put the department’s nearly $49,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant toward installation of a 102-panel solar photovoltaic array and geothermal system for the business’s upcoming greenhouse.
Marstaller also received $25,000 through the Maine Department of Agriculture’s Farms for the Future Program, which he will put toward the overall project.
With completion of the geothermal system, Cozy Acres will have Maine’s first “Net Zero” greenhouse, according to a USDA press release. The structure should be complete by the end of October.
“All the electricity [this greenhouse] needs whatsoever will be made from the sun,” Marstaller said. “We’re calling it zero emissions. … That makes electricity that goes backwards to [Central Maine Power Co.].”
The greenhouse will produce vegetable transplants and herbs 12 months a year, and Marstaller figures that the structure will save his business more than $13,000 a year.
Looking around at the work being done around Cozy Acres, USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien called the business “a great example” of what REAP can do for small businesses.
“It’s about diversifying the energy portfolio for the country, for the community,” O’Brien said. “And it’s also about helping these small businesses make sure that they can be successful.”
Marstaller did not apply for funding this year. Businesses receiving funds are in Washington, Alfred, Rockport, Bangor, Damariscotta, Boothbay Harbor, Rockwood, Greenwood, New Harbor and Pembroke.
Among those in attendance at the announcement were U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and state Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth.