Vegetable producers in northern Wisconsin are having success marketing their produce via community supported agriculture, but with the very short growing season they are looking for ways to extend their marketing season. The Lake Superior CSA, for example, is operated by the Bayfield Regional Food Producers Cooperative and provides a Whole Diet share including meats, fruits, and vegetables from late-May through early-March. The winter vegetables are primarily storage crops like carrots, potatoes, garlic, and winter squash and to retain existing and attract new customers the growers want to diversify their winter vegetable offerings. In partnership with Jason Fischbach of UW-Extension, the growers have conducted on-farm research to optimize winter high-tunnel spinach production and through that work now supply spinach October-April. With that success, the growers would like to now optimize frozen vegetables for direct sale to consumers and to wholesalers.
In addition to expansion of regional CSA, the growers have partnered with Northland College to help meet the College’s goal of 80% local foods. To that end, Northland established the Food Lab, which includes a processing kitchen and blast freezer. Through this project, we will identify varieties of carrots, potatoes, green beans, and broccoli best suited for blast freezing.
1.Conduct on-farm variety trials to evaluate the yield, pest-resistance, and maturity of 5 varieties each of carrots, green beans, broccoli, and potatoes.
2a. Blast freeze samples of each of the varieties included in the farm trials for sensory panel evaluation of texture, color, and flavor at 1, 3, and 6 months after freezing.
2b. Blast freeze samples of 40 of the top performing varieties from the UW-Madison Seed-to-Kitchen vegetable variety trials for sensory panel evaluation of texture, color, and flavor at 1, 3, and 6 months after freezing.
Objective 1: On-farm variety trials will be conducted in 2018 and 2019 at four farms representing a range of soil conditions in the region: Great Oak Farm (outwash sandy loam), Northcroft Farm (lacustrine clay loam), River Road Farm (riverine silt loam), Yoman Farm (outwash sand). The trials will be arranged with a split plot design in a randomized complete block with four replications per variety. Each of the four sites will have 5 varieties for each of 4 crops. Carrots (Belgrado, Bolero, Cambera, Cupar, Naval); Broccoli (Asteroid, Emerald Star, Emerald Crown, Gypsy, Imperial); Green Beans (BA0958, Jade2, Momentum, Prevail, Sybaris); Potatoes (Russet Norkotah, Dark Red Norland, Gold Rush, Bintje, Russet Burbank). (carrots, broccoli, green beans, potatoes). For the carrots, we will measure total carrot yield, merchantable carrot yield, and lbs/carrot for each plot. For the green beans, we will measure total season fresh weight yield for each plot. For the broccoli, we will measure total fresh weight yield for each plot and weight per head. For potatoes, we will measure total tuber weight for each plot.
The carrots will be seeded in four rows. Each plot will be four rows wide by 6 feet long. The green beans will be seeded in two rows each 10 feet long. The broccoli will be transplanted in two rows each 20 feet long. Potatoes will be in two 6 foot-long rows.
Objective 2: Immediately after harvest, the produce will be hydrocooled and transported to Northland College. The produce from each plot will be cleaned and prepared, chopped, and placed on the freezer trays and frozen with a blast freezer according to standard procedures for each crop. Immediately after freezing the product will be vacuum packed into separate pouches and stored at 0F until tasting. At 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months after freezing, a sensory panel of 10 tasters will sample the raw, but thawed green beans, broccoli, and carrots and rate both texture and flavor on a scale of 1 to 10. In addition, the green beans, broccoli, and carrots will be steamed until soft and the sensory panel will again rate texture and flavor. The potatoes will be fried as french fries with the panel rating both texture and flavor.
The trials were successfully established at all four sites in 2018, but torrential rain (6″ in less than 24 hours) in June caused considerable damage at the Great Oak site and rotted the potatoes at all four sites. As such, the potato trials were not conducted in 2018. A written report of the trials will be produced after the second year. The first year results have been included in the presentation developed for a Seed-to-Kitchen update meeting held in Spooner, WI: South-Shore-Veggie-Trials_Feb-2019
The first and second taste testings have been conducted, but data is still being analyzed. In addition to tasting the frozen green beans, carrots, and broccoli, we were also able to conduct a taste testing with varieties of butternut squash grown in Spooner as part of the UW-Madison Seed-to-Kitchen trials.
The second year of the field trials will be established in May of 2019. Let’s hope we avoid another 500 year storm.
Educational & Outreach Activities
In 2018, each farm served as a demonstration site for each cooperator to show customers, neighbors, and other vegetable growers. There were two outreach events held. The first was at the Northland College Food lab to show the freezing facility and for tasting the frozen vegetables. Jason Fischbach presented the results from the 2018 trials at a Seed-to-Kitchen update meeting in Spooner, WI using the presentation linked in the results section of this report. Two of the grower cooperators assisted Jason with the presentation.