Agriculture

Gibson Farms moves to renewable energy

Ribbon-cutting introduces community to solar-powered facility.
Mark Gibson in the walnut processing room.
Mark Gibson in the walnut processing room.
Aerial view of solar panels.
Aerial view of solar panels.
Ed Bless of Blueline Power and San Benito County Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Leonard.
Ed Bless of Blueline Power and San Benito County Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Leonard.

Hollister organic walnut and conventional apricot grower Gibson Farms celebrated its newly solar-powered facility at 1190 Buena Vista Road in Hollister on Aug. 28. The ribbon-cutting included a reception and tour of the facility.

Mark Gibson, who has run the Gibson Farms orchard since 1975, said he has always been interested in taking the sustainable and environmentally friendly approach, but was reluctant to spend the money needed to convert to solar energy. Times have changed.

“The power comes from the sun anyway and the fact we can harness it to create electricity is amazing,” Gibson said. “Now that the price has come down and the federal government has been really good with the tax credits, it was time.” He receives a 30% tax credit for installing and using solar energy. 

To go green, Gibson reached out to his friend Ed Bless’ clean energy company Blueline Power of Hollister, which installed 623 solar panels on Gibson’s buildings. Most of those panels fuel cold storage units. 

About 50 people, including San Benito County Supervisors Mark Medina and Jim Gillio, attended the reception. Medina, who cut apricots at the farm when he was a teenager, said he was there to celebrate with the Gibson family, adding that he believes it’s important to keep agriculture in the community.

Hollister resident Joann Machado was also there to support the Gibson family. Like Medina, she grew up near the orchard and said she was pleased to see the farm switch to solar power. 

Gibson Farms opened in the 1950s and has remained a small, family-owned operation. Mark Gibson’s parents ran the orchard before he took over. He now has 40 employees and ships his products around the U.S., as well as to Europe and Asia. He said roughly 50 percent of his sales are overseas.

At the ribbon-cutting, Bless told attendees that Gibson Farms’ solar installation will pay for itself in about six years. Currently, the orchard’s energy costs are around $56,000 annually. 

Bless told BenitoLink that his company was founded on “the notion of working towards a cleaner environment, stepping into something new.” He said they are the first solar company in Hollister, and while this was a smaller project than they usually do, he was happy to help his friend.

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.