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Mason Dixon Farms

Location Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Project Type Farm Scale
Animal Type Dairy
Population Feeding Digester 2,300
Baseline System Storage Lagoon
Digester Type Horizontal Plug Flow
System Designer Dick and Bert Waybright
Biogas Use Cogeneration
Generating Capacity 600 kW

Farm view: Mason Dixon Farm, a view across the Mason Dixon Line.

Photo: Penn State University Cooperative Extension

Photo of Mason Dixon Farmhouse

Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

When Richard Waybright leads tours of Mason Dixon Farms, visitors frequently hear the farm's motto: "Change is inevitable, success is optional." For decades, visitors have clearly seen that Mason Dixon has embraced change and followed a path of innovation to success. For example, Mason Dixon Farms responded to the energy crisis of the late 1970s by exploring 'cow power' to make the farm energy self-sufficient.

In 1979, Mason Dixon Farms began operating the first plug flow digester at a commercial farm. For over 25 years, the farm has produced enough electricity for the farm, with excess sold to the grid. Today, a total of three digesters produce biogas that fuels up to five engine-generator sets that reliably produce electricity in excess of 95 percent of the time.

Automatic scrapers push manure and bedding into collection pits. From there, manure is pumped into the three digesters. Heat recovered from the engines heats water that is circulated through the digester to increase biogas production, which is estimated to be 120,000 ft3/day. Excess heat is also used for home heat on the farm.

Mason Dixon Farm's digester project includes the following financial benefits:

  • Increased revenue from the sale of electricity
  • Composted manure is used as bedding material, saving bedding expense
  • Sale of digester solids as soil amendment generates revenue
  • Application of nutrient-rich slurry to over 3,000 acres of silage greatly decreases the need for commercial fertilizers and lime, and increases the crop yield on the irrigated land in dry periods

Our farm has been "cow powered" since 1979. Our cows not only provide the public with a healthy and wholesome product, they provide our farm with our electricity needs.
—Richard Waybright, President, Mason Dixon Farms (Quoted at Dairy Farming Today.org)

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