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Fourth-generation local farmer to lead agriculture on Muddy Creek Energy Park

Family farmer and landowner John Langdon has joined the proposed Muddy Creek Energy Park to oversee farming and ranching on the region’s first dual solar energy and agriculture site.

Langdon, whose family has farmed in Linn County for more than a century, will lead agricultural operations on 1,100 acres north of Eugene. The Langdon family has leased about 300 acres of their land to the Muddy Creek Energy Park project for 40 years, along with neighboring landowners.

“John is the perfect farmer to lead farming and ranching on this exciting project,” said Brian Tran, development manager for Qcells, the solar energy company leading the Muddy Creek Energy Park project. “He has farmed this land much of his adult life, and he’s showing how farmers and landowners can help the region meet its needs for both local renewable energy and local agriculture on the same land.”

Langdon knows and cares about the land and wants to keep farming it for decades to come.

“Right now, too many local farmers are struggling. As a fourth-generation farmer on this land, I have the highest level of interest in saving our farmland and saving our farmers,” Langdon said. “This is an opportunity for us is to do something to advance our farm in a way that otherwise could not be done.”

Historically, the Langdon family has grown grass seed in the heavy clay soil, classified as Class 4 because of its crop limitations. In 2016, they made a bold and successful move to introduce wild rice. Langdon hopes adding solar panels will make more crops viable and profitable by increasing shade, improving soil quality and lowering irrigation needs. Research into agrivoltaic systems shows a 60-70% increase in overall land-use efficiency. Agrivoltaics can also reduce plant drought stress and heat stress, which leads to crop yield improvements.

Still, Langdon said, rising costs and market pressures are making it harder for family farms like his to survive. Agrivoltaic projects like the Muddy Creek Energy Park offer them more flexibility and options for the future of their land. Research has found that areas under solar panels were significantly more water efficient. The Muddy Creek property is non-irrigated dry farmland, making water efficiency particularly attractive.

Qcells is working with Langdon and other local stakeholders to ensure the project meets the agricultural, renewable energy and economic needs of the Willamette Valley. It is expected to generate an estimated $1.6 million in annual local tax income, 100 union construction jobs and 199 MW of solar energy per year, enough to power 34,000 households.

Langdon plans to consider the merits of each acre and tailor crops to each section. Much of the land is expected to be suitable for farming. Sheep will also continue to graze in some areas. He will work with university researchers, such as agrivoltaics expert Dr. Chad Higgins from Oregon State University, and students to study new techniques for pairing solar technology and agriculture on the same land.

“This will be an innovation in precision ag cropping systems that is really exciting,” Langdon said. “Every year it’s harder and harder for a farm to make it. Everyone is looking for a new path. If you don’t move to the future, you’ll be part of the past.”