Sarah and Mark Lutte in front of their 21 kw array.
You've heard of recipes being passed down through generations. Engagement rings, wedding dresses, and photo albums often make their way through time. But what about . . . orange dahlias?
Sarah Lutte's grandmother grew a specific type of beautiful orange dahlia, and gave Sarah dahlia tubers to plant for her wedding. This particular dahlia varietal is hard to grow and requires a lot of extra effort, but for Mark and Sarah Lutte it was important to continue the tradition. Now, those orange dahlias are just one of over 50 varietals of flowers grown at Lazy Acres Farm in Farmingdale - some go to their Flower Bouquet Subscription , some are sold to florists, and some go to weddings - but all are local and, thanks in part to their new solar array, come with a very small carbon footprint.
The original orange dahlia varietal, passed down through generations. Photo courtesy of Lazy Acres Farm.
Keeping everything local and sustainable is very important to the Luttes. 85% of flower sales in the U.S. are imported from countries with other labor and pesticide standards, and carry a huge carbon footprint due to transportation and refrigeration.
"We are providing local florists and local wedding couples with flowers that are grown in Maine," Sarah says. They've been committed to this path ever since they started the business 5 years ago. Initially they were just gardening for themselves, but they knew they wanted to make a business out of it eventually. Sarah explains, "I get a ton of joy when I work with flowers."
They started with four rows of flowers and it's grown exponentially since then. But with that growth came an increasing electric bill as they added greenhouses, coolers, and an irrigation system. And when the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone home, the Luttes decided the time was right for solar.
"It just made a lot of sense for us," says Mark. Their 21 kilowatt system is set on two ground-mounted arrays, with 48 panels in total that look out over the flower rows. At the same time, they converted their home's heating system to a whole-house electric heat pump, and did some weatherization and efficiency work to the basement and attic, adding insulation.
Low interest rates allowed the Luttes to refinance their mortgage, and ReVision worked to make sure their array would be built before the anticipated federal tax credit step down (thankfully the tax credit was extended for two years ). Because of the pandemic, they were home for most of the solar journey - from initial site visit and design, to the racking set-up, to the final panel installation .
Mark and Sarah are excited to continue their sustainability journey in the coming years. They are looking into replacing the greenhouse's propane heater with an electric one, and both eagerly awaiting the release of the Ford Lightning F-150 . They currently have a 2006 F-150 that they hope will hold out until the Lightnings are available. The Luttes are also considering back-up battery storage because they often lose power for a few hours at a time during winter windstorms, which can be dangerous for the greenhouses.
It's very important to the Luttes to include their children in the planning and processes of the whole business; after all, the dahlias are a multi-generational flower. "We always want to balance lifestyle with farming," Mark says on the phone, as the whole family heads off on a weekend camping trip, leaving the farm in the trusted hands of their two employees. "What's one thing you want people to know?" Mark asks their 6 and 8 year-old children. The answer? "Flowers are pretty!" And that's the absolute truth.
Enjoy some more beautiful photos of this sunny flower farm!