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Eco-conscious Battle Ground farmers turn tractors electric

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As part of its push toward becoming carbon neutral, a small Battle Ground poultry farm is working to convert its 1970s gasoline-powered tractor motors to electric vehicle motors. 

Danny and Sharon Rowland from Misty Frog Acres say their projects haven’t ended since they started their farm 8 years ago. Their latest project, converting the motors on their tractors to electric vehicle, or EV, motors is the latest thing Danny is working to tackle. 

“I really want to do this and try and convert the three little mini tractors we have here to electric on the farm to like, start pushing towards that carbon neutrality goal, because I feel like anything I can do to actually help the world right now is a benefit,” he said. 

Chickens on Misty Frog Acres in Battle Ground Washington on Jan. 17, 2022. (KOIN)

The Rowlands are on a mission to be as eco-conscious as they can with their farming practices. They compost, have no-till gardens to help keep carbon dioxide in the soil, and rotate their sheep and chickens through their pastures to naturally fertilize them. When they first started their farm, Danny said they didn’t feel like carbon-neutrality was something they could achieve easily, but the longer he’s in the business, the more opportunities he sees. 

“All the techniques that we use on the farm are more about the land itself, and the animals and the produce that we’re growing on it actually being an ecosystem and helping each other out,” Danny said. 

The Rowlands have three 1975 Power King tractors. They’re small, but work great on the couple’s 5-acre farm. 

Danny said these tractors are the perfect candidates to convert to electric motors. He said their drive trains and their transmissions are situated so that a standard motor mount, with a little bit of fabrication work, can allow a new motor and drive shaft to plug in perfectly to what already exists on the tractor. 

The only trick is finding room for the batteries, but Danny has a plan for that too. He intends to secure 23 rechargeable batteries above the new electric motor and drive shaft. According to his calculations, that should all fit under the tractor’s original hood. He even hopes to make a modular battery pack that would allow him to move the batters from one tractor motor to another. 

Danny said he’s received help and advice from people in a Facebook group dedicated to building electric vehicles on their own. He said they had a lot of experience when it came to electric conversions. 

Battle Ground EV tractor
An EV motor Danny Rowland plans to install in one of his tractors. Photo taken Jan. 17, 2022. (KOIN)

He said he received the motor from Green Shed Conversion and the company helped him determine what other components he would need to achieve his goal. 

Now, the only thing the Rowlands need to accomplish their EV conversion is some additional financial support to help pay for the parts they’ll need. Danny still needs to purchase more batteries and motors for his two other tractors. 

The Rowlands said they were hesitant to ask for help, but after seeing how interested their friends were in the project, they decided to create a GoFundMe account.   

“It’s important enough to me that I thought I will do this no matter what. I will figure out how to do this because it’s important enough for me to start doing something about the environment,” Danny said. 

He said he knows he’s not the first person to perform electric conversion on a tractor, but he hopes he can be a blueprint for other local farmers in the region, to help them realize this is a possibility for them as well. 

Battle Ground EV tractors
Danny Rowland feeds sheep on his family’s farm, Misty Frog Acres, in Battle Ground Washington on Jan. 17, 2022. (KOIN)

Electric tractors are available to purchase from retailers, but the Rowlands also see value in upcycling and say they’d rather upgrade their 1975 tractors over time than see them scrapped for something new. They said switching to EV motors is also a more cost-effective option for them, rather than purchasing new tractors. 

With more work and financial support, Danny hopes that at the 2023 Vancouver Farmers Market he can tell his customers his chicken farm operates with tractors that don’t use gasoline at all. 

He said if the GoFundMe exceeds his expectations, his next goal is to purchase a solar panel to charge the tractors’ batteries.

Eco-conscious Battle Ground farmers turn tractors electric