Food for Fuel

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Jack Simmons grows everything from cabbage to eggplant on his organic farm in Sopchoppy.

His tractor eats up about $1,000 a year in diesel fuel. That is, until now. Starting this weekend he will begin producing bio-diesel fuel using vegetable oil.

"Being able to use used cooking oil to make high quality diesel that will run in my tractor, that does it for me," said Simmons.

A 50 gallon hot water heater is part of what Simmons will use to create the oil. In it he can make 25 gallons of bio-diesel per batch, but the process takes more than oil and a converter.

"You have to have methanol and you have to have a catalyst, which is lye or potassium hydroxide, not sodium hydroxide," said farmer Raymond Mullins.

Florida A&M University sponsored a workshop on this topic as part of the university's statewide small farm program.

"What we are trying to do is provide relevant education and training to the population," said Jennifer Taylor, the small farm program coordinator.

Simmons says he will essentially have free gasoline. He points out that he could get used cooking oil from most restaurant owners and would be relieving a burden, with most restaurants having to pay to have the oil hauled off and disposed.

The workshop will also be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sopchoppy's Crescent Moon Organic Farms.