Wood-Mode’s newest sustainability strategy, solar grazing

This summer, a flock of 35 sheep have taken up residence at the Wood-Mode's solar field.

Photo By Wood-Mode

Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry has implemented many environmentally responsible strategies over the years, but management never imagined their efforts would lead to adding sheep to its workforce.

“The Wood-Mode legacy was built with great respect for the environment,” said Rod Hunter, Wood-Mode general manager. “As such, we made sustainability a key pillar of our business model, a strategy we call ‘The 5 Keys to Crafting Success.’” 

These pillars, which Wood-Mode determined to be the best pathway to success as a company, also include inspiration, innovation, craftsmanship and collaboration. “Every decision made across company operations is based upon these established initiatives," he said. "Advancing the 5 Keys, including sustainability, means investing in innovative ideas and sometimes, unconventional tactics.”

A recent benchmark in the company’s environmental stewardship was the installation of two massive solar arrays: one ground-mounted in a nearby, 16-acre field and the other a 3-megawatt solar array spanning the rooftop of a main building. Combined, the two arrays power 80% of Wood-Mode’s million-plus-square-foot facility.

When Wood-Mode planned its ground-mounted solar array, leadership decided to also adopt a practice known as solar grazing or “agrivoltaics,” which is the dual use of land for solar power and agriculture. On May 17, in partnership with local farmer Jeremy Reese, Wood-Mode welcomed the first guests of the solar field: a flock of 35 hair sheep.

Growing industry
The United States solar industry is growing considerably. But this highly effective renewable resource also yields concerns that there won’t be enough cropland to feed a growing population if acreage is overtaken by roads, buildings and ground-mounted photovoltaics.

Sheep are uniquely suitable for solar grazing. They don’t climb on the solar panels or chew wires like goats are prone to do. And unlike cows or horses, they are small enough to shelter under the panels. The American Solar Grazing Association estimates that about 5,000 sheep are currently maintaining solar sites across the US.

Tending the flock
The flock will spend the warm months this year grazing the field, eliminating the need to use a gas-powered mower, reducing cost and emissions. The land was prepped for their arrival last year when Wood-Mode spread Fuzz & Buzz, a seed mix that promotes the health of both pollinators and sheep.

“This particular group of ewes is a breeding flock and we have a ram running with them. They’ll be together throughout the summer and we’re hoping for some lambs come October,” Reese said. “We’re looking forward to a whole summer-long partnership with them grazing in this nice fertile ecosystem.”

Hunter added that Wood-Mode has "taken our respect for the environment and amplified it to meet and, in some cases, exceed today’s standards and expectations. This new partnership is a win for everybody. It’s a win for the farmer, it’s a win for Wood-Mode, and it’s a win for the environment.”

As a result of its efforts, Wood-Mode is certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) for meeting the standards of its stringent Environmental Stewardship Program including compliance with air quality, product resource management, environmental stewardship, and community relations.

Headquartered in Kreamer, Pennsylvania, Wood-Mode ranked #108 on the 2024 FDMC 300, a listing of the largest wood products manufacturers in North America. Owner Bill French was also recognized as a Wood Industry Market Leader in 2020.


Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.