Charles Robinson comes from a United Empire Loyalist family that settles along Robinson Road in Madoc Township. He has lived and farmed there all his life. On the farm they produce hay and cash crops and maple syrup. Robinson is now a Madoc Township councillor and his wife Bonnie Robinson works at the Eldorado Cheese Factory. There is a large wood lot on the farm and Charles and his father, who has been logging for 55 years, harvest timber and fire wood. Charles Robinson has been interested in alternative energy for a long time and his son now works in the solar industry. “This is a tough industry to work in,” said Robinson. He thinks, although, people are starting to think about alternative energy, there are perception problems as it is still seen as a hippie thing to do. Although they live off grid, Bonnie and Charles Robinson don’t fit the hippy profile. They find living off grid is not only feasible but also practical. They live in a house that they built themselves. “Our house is more sustainable as it was built from timber that came off the farm,” said Robinson. “Bonnie sees no difference. She uses more hydro now we are off grid than before as we are not paying for it.” They advise people to, at least, heat their hot water using solar energy. This way they invest their dollars instead of throwing them away. They invest and get a return on their investment, Robinson said. “It takes energy to make a solar panel, but once in place there is zero cost to producing energy,” said Robinson. He contrasts solar panels to with a heat pump, which takes power from hydro. Solar panels capture free energy and don’t use any hydro. Robinson is also interested in using waterpower and wind power. Back in 1947 there was a windmill attached to the barn generating hydro for the farm. Bonnie and Charles now have a windmill on the hill high above their house to generate hydro. “Windmills need to be 30 feet above any surrounding trees,” said Robinson Charles Robinson has been a member of the Hastings Stewardship Council for the past year or so. He said, “I like what the stewardship council is doing. I like looking after the environment, I like to get information, and I like input and trying to introduce change.” Although, he recognizes many people are overloaded with information and resistant to change he thinks everybody needs to be working together to find ways we can be more sustainable.
Top photo: Harvest Hastings board member, Jenny Cook of Knuckle Down Farm, along with Stone Soup coordinator Michele Vindum of Plainfield Heritage