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Inside SIPA Building Excellence Award winning project Singer Farm Naturals

Appleton, New York-based produce supplier Singer Farm Naturals was named the Agricultural category winner in the 2011 SIPA Building Excellence Awards for their transformation of a nineteenth century barn into an ultra-sustainable retail location for their locally grown produce.

For nearly a century the Western New York family farm, Singer Farms, has grown high quality orchard fruits sold wholesale both statewide and nationally. In 2009, one of the Singer family daughters Vivianne Szulist, along with her husband Tom, started the retail farm business Singer Farm Naturals.

The couple’s own commitment to a sustainable lifestyle motivated their concept of a farm retail store focusing on natural products and consumer education.

“We believe that there is an enhanced quality of life in knowing where your food comes from, and it has been lost in the corporate profile of bringing food to you as cheaply as possible,” said co-owner Tom Szulist. “We want to help people understand what garlic is all about, where it comes from, and how to grow it yourself.”

Their environment-first philosophy was reflected in the building itself, which started by reviving a barn dating back to the 1840’s that had been used as a dairy and storage building for farm equipment. Working with Alliance Builders, the Szulists restored the interior timber frame constructed from hand-hewn American Chestnut trees felled on the property over a century ago. The old shell of the building was then wrapped in new straw bale construction and structural insulated panels (SIPs) from R-Control SIP manufacturer Thermal Foams in Buffalo, New York.

“Both SIPs and straw bales are very sustainable and provide excellent insulation,” said Szulist. “Choosing SIPs for the roof was the most logical and green way to keep everything on the interior as original as we could.”

Heating for the 2,700 sq. ft. building will be provided by radiant floor heating system. Water will be heated with a high-efficiency wood-fired boiler that can burn wood from the many surrounding orchards. Excess hot water is stored in a 700 gallon insulated storage tank for later use.

Nearly all of the operation’s electricity needs are provided by a 10 kW photovoltaic solar array, further reducing its environmental footprint.

The barn’s agricultural past and focus on sustainable practices for the future led Szulist to name it the “Legacy Barn.”

“This was an opportunity to take ownership of barn in our lifetime, enhance it in environmentally sensitive way, and pass it on to next generation,” Szulist said.

More information and photos are available at: http://singerfarmnaturals.com/

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