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Solar Cooking at the Farmers Market

June 7th, 2010 · No Comments

If embraced, solar cooking has the potential for providing a meaningful Silver BB in the fight to mitigate climate change, in the struggle to reduce health damage from polluting cooking (such as wood or coal burning in inadequately vented homes), and aiding economic strengthening for some of the world’s poorest people (reducing costs (both monetary and otherwise) for fuel for cooking). Solar Cooking, however, is best when combined with highly efficient stoves so that when the sun in unavailable or inadequate, the ‘polluting’ fuel requirements are minimized. GMoke has been a long-time solar and clean-energy advocate and activists. One of his long-promoted concepts, with far less following and attention than it deserves, is to do grass-roots marketing of solar systems at farmers markets (among other public spaces).  (He is also heavily involved in energy efficiency barnraisings and advocates another useful action: an energy efficiency barn raising in the White House.) This guest post from SpotDawa, responding to a recent GMoke discussion, provides a window on both solar cooking and efficient wood-burning cooking from the perspective of introducing these to Americans at a local farmers’ market.

Last week GMoke posted: How to Change US Energy in One Growing Season.  His first recommendation gmoke

Consistently demonstrate practical, affordable energy efficiency and renewable energy ideas, devices, and systems at the over 4000 weekly farmers’ markets that take place across the USA from Memorial Day to Halloween or Thanksgiving.  

This is something that we had already started doing this year when taking our organic leaf lettuce to market.  The farm that I am working at hosts the workshop portion of a solar cooking course each semester, offered at the local community college.  So we are able to demonstrate solar cooking as well as provide an opportunity for further learning for those that become truly intrigued.

Here is our small local market in Show Low, Arizona, at Sunshine Herbs on Huning Street.
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Our site is the white canopy in the foreground — you can see the solar ovens set up in front of the canopy on the gravel.
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People will stop and talk with us about solar cooking, and we hear many stories about people learning to make their own solar cookers — and we hope that this exposure will inspire many more such efforts.
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In these photos you can see a Sun Oven (with the reflectors); a Sport Cooker designed by solar cooking and sustainability pioneer Barbara Prosser Kerr, who lives in the nearby town of Taylor and is a local treasure, and a rocket stove.  More about these items below.
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Sun Oven
Reflectors can make a big difference in the internal heat of a solar oven.  Without reflectors, a solar box cooker will boil water after an hour or so, and reach a temperature of around 225 degrees farenheit — with the reflectors, the Sun Oven reaches up to 350 degrees.  We demonstrate the Sun Oven with a big biscuit cooked in an enamel pot — it even browns.
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Sport Solar Cooker
The Sport is the plain black box with plastic cover in the photo below.  The water in the enamel pot is boiling.  You can see more of it here.  The link is a sales brochure — but please know that the author of this diary does not benefit from any sales.  The Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center is an educational non-profit (501(c)(3)).

Also in the photo is the biscuit we cooked in the Sun Oven, and an extremely fuel-efficient wood stove called a rocket stove.
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Rocket Stove
While not a solar technology, the rocket stove burns small pieces of wood (twigs or kindling).  The design allows cooking using a very small area of flame — basically you are just burning the ends of a few sticks.  This model is one we build in the Solar Cooking and Sustainability Course offered through the local community college, Northland Pioneer.
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The metal divider that the sticks rest on provides a platform for the fuel as well as an air channel that flows under the fuel and allows for very strong combustion of the stick ends.
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This stove allows for cooking using a minimum of fuel — not as ideal as solar, but still very effective and helpful in places with deforestation problems.  Even in heavily forested regions, using less fuel is the right thing to do from a carbon and fire-safety perspective.
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Please note that we do not sell solar ovens or the biscuits we make to demonstrate their use — we take our produce to the market, and take the opportunity to educate our community further about sustainable alternatives.

Tags: Energy · eco-friendly · energy smart · environmental · green