Expanding winter harvest and sales for New England vegetable crops

2013 Annual Report for LNE10-297

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $193,557.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Ruth Hazzarad
University of Massachusetts

Expanding winter harvest and sales for New England vegetable crops


This project serves New England farmers who are responding to the steadily expanding public desire for year-round access to local food. Project participants at the Universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Extensions, along with two local food organizations, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) in western MA and Seacoast Eat Local (SEL) in eastern NH, have been working to reach growers interested in increasing their incomes from vegetable sales from December through April. In 2013, UMass and UNH presented information related to winter crop production, storage, and/or sales at 12 outreach events, addressing approximately 1200 growers and educators. These programs were informed by input from the eight growers who have been serving as our advisory panel on this project, as well as our on-farm interactions and research station trials.

In our year 3 trials, we looked at variety and seeding date as factors in effectively overwintering fall-seeded crops in low tunnels for early spring harvests. We measured yield differences between several onion varieties, and between crops seeded at different dates in the fall using beets, carrots, kale, and spinach. We continued our work monitoring the different crop storage facilities of 4 diversified vegetable farms in Massachusetts, begun in fall 2012, and concluded our post-harvest treatment evaluations of washed and unwashed storage carrots. We also continued working with Larry Manire of New England Farm Sensors as a technical advisor. Larry’s sensors were tested in the low tunnels and storage facilities used in the 2012-13 trials. Results of these trials are reported in Section 3.

In 2013, UMass Vegetable Extension began a collaboration with UMass Building and Construction Technology Program to research energy-efficient produce storage technologies, and to offer energy audits and technical support to farmers. We are currently in the survey phase of this project, seeking information on the status of New England farms’ storage capabilities and challenges.

Support for farmers seeking to increase their winter income continues to be available through project participants’ on-line resources, including those created as part of this project. These include UMass Extension’s Vegetable Notes newsletter and Winter Production, Storage & Sales website; SEL’s Winter Farmers’ market webpage and blog; and Wintergreens, a UNH-based blog on research surrounding winter vegetable production.

The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market, begun in the fall of 2010 with support from UMass Extension, continues to thrive, with strong attendance numbers in winter 2012-13, and again as the 2013-14 season gets underway. CISA hosted successful Winter Fare days at four MA locations in 2013, and SEL hosts an ever-expanding calendar of winter markets in NH. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources reports that there are currently 39 winter farmers’ markets active throughout the state.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance Target: 75 vegetable growers in New England increase their annual income from sales of vegetable crops during the months of December through April, by an average $6750 per farm. This will be accomplished through extending their production and harvest season or through expanding successful storage of fall-harvested crops, or both.

Baseline income information was collected in 2010 from 83 growers through an assessment survey on sales of vegetable crops during the months of December through April. We will use this data, along with survey information being collected in the project’s final year, to measure a difference in annual income from winter sales of vegetable crops over the span of this project. An income assessment and winter practices survey will be distributed to growers and winter market vendors in MA and NH at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.


Milestone 4: (Year 3, June 2012 to May 2013)

-Eight farms use low tunnels for overwintering crops, including four who are new to this technology.

Growers serving on this project’s advisory panel continue to refine their practices with respect to using low tunnels and other structures to overwinter crops for spring harvest and sales. Two of these growers reported on their current methodologies at the 2013 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference in Manchester, NH at the following talks, each attended by over 100 people:

  • Seeding Scheduling and Using the Jang Seeder
    Andre Cantelmo, Heron Pond Farm, South Hampton, NH
  • Growing for Retail markets in S. New England with Field, Low Tunnel and High Tunnel Production
    Skip Paul, Wishing Stone Farm, Little Compton, RI

UMass Extension Vegetable Program was also contacted for consultations on the use of low tunnels by 3 Amherst farms within the last months of 2013. Further assessment of the use of low tunnels will be made through surveys to be distributed in early 2014 to winter market vendors, as well as to the readerships of Extension’s Vegetable Program website and Vegetable Notes newsletter.

-20 additional growers improve storage facilities or change production or storage practices and report impact.

Responses are currently being collected from participants in a New England Produce Storage Survey, conducted by UMass Extension and UMass Building and Construction Technology Program. Based on this information, interested growers will be assisted in making decisions to improve their storage facilities, with consideration to economic and energy efficiency and overall product quality.
*See attached document for a description of and link to this survey.

-35 additional farmers expand winter harvest and sales.

This data will be collected in end-of-season market surveys to be conducted by UMass, the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market, CISA, and SEL, as well as through surveys to be distributed to Vegetable Notes newsletter readers and to participants in upcoming UMass winter-production-related programs.

-200 farmers attend winter farm tour, field days at research farms and winter vegetable workshop.

This project assisted UMass in hosting the following educational programs in 2013:

  • Winter Crops: Low tunnels, Overwintering, and Varieties for Late Fall and Early Spring Harvests. The 4th Annual North Quabbin Food Forum, March 2. 2013. 30 growers.
  • Meeting Needs of Vegetables for Winter Storage.
    NOFA Summer Conference, August 1, 2013. 20 growers.
  • Winter Production, IPM, and Marketing for Farmers.
    Tangerini’s Spring Street Farm Twilight meeting, September 18, 2013. 30 growers and/or educators.
    *See attached flyer.
  • Extended Season Production.
    Newton Farm CRAFT meeting October 30, 2013. 30 growers.
  • Carrots for Winter Sales: Varieties, Planting Dates and Post-Harvest Care.
    New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference, Manchester, NH, December 17-19. 150 growers and/or educators.
    *See attached proceedings.
  • From Field to Storage: High Quality Carrots.
    New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference, Manchester, NH, December 17-19. 150 growers and/or educators.
    *See attached proceedings.

This project assisted UNH in hosting the following educational programs in 2012-13:

  • Winter sprouting broccoli – A new crop for early spring?
    MOFGA Farmer to Farmer Conference. November 2012. Northport ME. 45 growers.
  • Variety Trials at UNH: High Tunnel Tomatoes, High Tunnel Cukes, and Over-wintering Onions. New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association Meeting, December 2012, Portsmouth NH. 85 growers, 4 extension educators.
  • High Tunnel Growing: Planning to Maximize Profits.
    RMA Organic Growers’ Workshop February 2013, two locations: Concord NH. 35 growers, 3 extension educators; Lancaster NH. 23 growers, 3 extension educators.
  • High Tunnel Growing: Planning to Maximize Profits.
    NOFA-NH Winter Conference, March 2013, Tilton NH. 40 growers.
  • Wintergreens Field Day.
    Woodman Farm at UNH, March 2013, Durham NH. 90 growers.
    *See attached flyer.
  • New Results from Overwintering Onions and Disease Resistant Tomato Trials.
    North Country Vegetable and Fruit Conference, October 2013, Whitefield NH. 140 growers, 5 extension educators.
  • Variety Trials at UNH: High Tunnel Tomatoes, High Tunnel Cukes, and Over-wintering Onions. Annual NH Farm Bureau Meeting, November 2013, Durham NH. 13 growers, 2 extension educators.
  • Overwintering Onions for Early Spring Market.
    New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference, Manchester, NH, December 17-19. 150 growers and/or educators.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Varieties, cultural practices, and post-harvest management for New England.
    New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference, Manchester, NH, December 17-19. 150 growers and/or educators.

Additionally, the following educational programs are planned for 2014:

  • Engineering Storage Facilities for Winter Vegetable Crops
    CT Farm Bureau Association, Windsor, CT
  • Winter Production, Storage, and Marketing
    Sturbridge Publick House, Sturbridge, MA

-500 farmers visit Winter Harvest website.

According to Google Analytics, 2850 people accessed information through the UMass Winter Production, Storage, and Sales webpage (https://extension.umass.edu/vegetable/projects/winter-production-storage-sales), with 2098 unique pageviews. Our upcoming work in the winter of 2013-14 will focus in part on attracting more visitors to this website, expanding the resources available on the site, and making the site more interactive.

Project partners at UNH and SEL also have sites that are active and regularly updated. Wintergreens is a research-based blog supported by UNH that covers many aspects of winter vegetable production (http://wintergreensatunh.blogspot.com). The Seacoast Eat Local blog provides regular updates on winter markets and available products in NH (http://seacoasteatlocal.org/blog).

-1000 receive fact sheets and articles.

Over 1200 people attended UMass- and UNH-sponsored outreach events related to winter production in 2013.
*See attached documents for samples of reference materials distributed at some of these events.

The following articles were published in 2013 in UMass Extension’s Vegetable Notes newsletter, which is circulated to over 1500 readers. These articles are also archived and accessible to the public on-line at https://extension.umass.edu/vegetable/publications/vegetable-notes-newsletter/archives.

Suggestions for Fall Seeded Crops for Fall and Spring Harvest
Variety Trials for Overwintering Onions in New England
Onions: Harvest and Curing Tips for Best Quality

Checklist for Harvest and Storage of Potatoes

Pumpkin and Winter Squash Harvest & Storage
Identifying Potato Tuber Diseases

Sweet Potato Harvest & Storage
Identifying Diseases of Carrots

Preparing for Winter – Greenhouse Insulation

Reducing Moisture in High Tunnel Systems
Pest Control for Winter Production
Reducing Storm Damage to Your Greenhouses

Reports on trials completed at the UMass research station will also be published on the UMass Winter Production website. Summaries of applied vegetable research projects done at the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are available to read at the UNH Cooperative Extension website. Publication is also pending for the following reports on winter vegetable production research completed at UNH:

  • Partial enterprise budgets for benchtop production of winter greens in minimally heated greenhouses are in the process of being constructed. The final outreach products will be made available in winter 2014.
  • A manuscript describing the results of combined UMass and UNH overwintering onion experiments is being prepared for submission for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. We plan to submit this manuscript during winter 2014.

Low tunnels, UMass:

  • Variety Trials for Overwintering Onions in New England
    The goal of the onion trial was to determine which varieties would produce the best quality and highest yield for spring markets. We compared eight onion varieties over two winters and found significant differences in bulb number, size, and weight as well as premature bolting.
    *See attached research report.
  • Effect of Direct Seeding Date on Yield of Overwintered Vegetables in Low Tunnels
    The goal of this project was to evaluate the effect of different seeding dates on the marketable spring yield of one variety each of carrots, beets, spinach, and kale grown using an overwintering low tunnel system. We found that beets did not produce any marketable yields, regardless of seeding dates. Spinach, kale, and carrots all produced marketable yields, but with no significant differences between dates, except in the case of the earliest and latest seedings of kale. The amount of bolting, however, was found to be significantly correlated to seeding date in the case of carrots, where the earlier dates had the highest number of bolted plants.
    *See attached research report.

Low tunnels, UNH:

  • Overwintering Onions in Low Tunnels, 2012 and 2013
    In 2011-12, seven varieties of onions were planted in Durham, NH at the NH Agricultural Experiment Station (zone 5B) to evaluate the potential for overwintering and early spring harvest. In 2012-13, the study was broadened to include ten varieties in Durham, and two varieties in North Haverhill, NH (zone 4B). In the second year, onions were grown with and without the benefit of protective tunnels.
    *See attached research report.


  • During the fall and winter of 2012-2013, UMass Extension staff worked with 4 diversified vegetable farms to monitor their crop storage facilities using carrots as a model crop. Carrots grown at the UMass Research Farm were placed in the storage facilities of these 4 farms and were evaluated over a 4-month storage period. Storage conditions were monitored using wireless sensor technology developed by Larry Manire of New England Farm Sensors, in conjunction with his own SARE-funded project, Evaluation of Inexpensive Wireless Sensor Networks for Managing Small Vegetable Farms. Results from this study will be used to create cost-effective improvement strategies for farmers, and will be published on the UMass Vegetable Program website. Results were also presented at the 2013 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference in Manchester, NH.
    *See attached document, Storage Trials Write-up, and Powerpoint presentations, Postharvest for Carrots, and Variety and Storage for results from this project.

An initial improvement effort is being trialed at one of the 4 farms for which water loss in stored carrots was an issue. This farm uses an underground root cellar, with part passive, part active cooling and no source of humidity other than the vegetables themselves. A centrifugal humidifier (Carel HumiDisk 10 Centrifugal Humidifier) was purchased and installed for use over the 2013-14 storage season. Results will be monitored by UMass Extension and our collaborators in the UMass Building and Construction Technology Program.

  • During the winter of 2012-13, UMass conducted a study using carrots as a model crop to investigate washed or unwashed as a post-harvest treatment over the course of a 4-month storage period. Carrots were planted at the UMass Research station at the end of July 2012 and harvested in November 2012. Samples of carrots from both washed and unwashed treatments were assessed for quality on a monthly basis from December 2012 through March 2013. Results were presented at the 2013 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference in Manchester, NH, and will be published on the UMass Vegetable Program website.
    *See attached document, Washing Trials write-up, and Powerpoint presentation, Postharvest for Carrots, for results from this project.
  • Benjamin S. Weil, Ph.D. Extension Assistant Professor Building Energy and graduate student Luke Doody, both of the UMass Building and Construction Technology Program are collaborating with UMass Extension on a project to study energy efficient technologies for farmers using produce storage as a tool in season extension. They are gathering information as to which facilities are currently in use and the challenges farmers are facing when it comes to vegetable storage through a survey (flyer attached in Milestones section). They have also set up a research storage facility at the UMass South Deerfield Research Farm.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Attendance at grower meetings related to all aspects of season extension is growing, as are the number of programs presented. The New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference held in December 2013 in Manchester, NH offered five-part sessions dedicated to Winter Growing, Soil Health in High Tunnels, and Crop Storage, with other sessions including talks on overwintering of onions, and direct marketing during the winter. These talks were all robustly attended, as was the farmer-to-farmer session on winter production.

The number of farmers’ markets in New England also continues to grow with consumer demand. There are now 39 winter farmers’ markets throughout Massachusetts, and 26 in New Hampshire according to the MA and NH Departments of Agriculture. The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market in MA, which takes place on Saturdays from December to March, reports an average of over 600 customers per week. More figures, including sales trends and quality of life information from vendors is pending, based on end-of-project surveys to be conducted in winter 2014.

CISA Update
CISA continues to promote seasonal eating through a variety of tools. CISA’s “Valley Bounty” newspaper column focuses on a different seasonal food each week in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and provides recipes, local sources, and storage tips. CISA’s website, which receives over 4,000 unique visitors per month, features up-to-date lists of winter farmers’ markets, winter CSAs, and farm stands that stay open during the winter. They promote seasonal eating with recipes and information about farms that sell during the winter through their Facebook page, which currently has over 2,400 “likes,” and their monthly e-newsletter, which is sent to nearly 5,000 households.

2013 work with Winter Farmers’ Markets
In the 2012-2013 winter season, CISA partnered with four regular winter markets for a special “Winter Fare” day. In earlier years, CISA had coordinated one-day Winter Fares, which were independent farmers’ markets with workshops, bartering, and hot food, in three communities. This new model was designed to bring the excitement, customer density, and community education components of Winter Fare to the ongoing winter farmers’ markets, thereby contributing to the long-term sustainability of those markets.

The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market is a weekly market with thirty-one vendors. At Amherst Winter Fare, CISA coordinated five workshops and 758 shoppers visited the market, up from 437 at the previous week’s market. Of the respondents to a shopper survey conducted at Winter Fare, 24% indicated that they were first-time visitors to the market.

The Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market is a weekly market with twelve vendors. At Northampton Winter Fare, CISA coordinated six workshops and 380 shoppers attended. This was the busiest market day ever recorded, up from an average of 295 shoppers.

The Springfield Winter Farmers’ Market is a bimonthly market with approximately fifteen vendors. At Springfield Winter Fare, CISA coordinated three cooking demos and 426 shoppers attended.

The Greenfield Winter Farmers’ Market is a monthly market with twenty-four vendors, several of which were admitted as one-time vendors to accommodate Winter Fare crowds. Greenfield Winter Fare drew 816 shoppers, and included six workshops.

Each market reported above-average crowds, and CISA plans to use this model again in the 2013-2014 season.


Kate Donald

[email protected]
Winter Farmers’ Market Coordinator
Seacoast East Local
245 North River Rd
Epping, NH 03042
Office Phone: 6037344223
Website: http://www.seacoasteatlocal.org/
Claire Morenon

[email protected]
Program Coordinator
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
1 Sugarloaf Street
South Deerfield, MA 01373
Office Phone: 4136657100
Website: http://buylocalfood.org/
Zara Dowling

[email protected]
Departmental Assistant
UMass Extension
250 Natural Resources Rd
Ag Engineering
Amherst, MA 01002
Office Phone: 4135773976
Becky Sideman

[email protected]
Extension Specialist and Associate Professor
University of New Hampshire
38 Academic Way
Durham, NH 03824-2617
Office Phone: 6038623203
Website: http://extension.unh.edu/
Susan Han

[email protected]
Associate Professor, Dept of Plant Soil and Insect Science/ Postharvest physiologist
University of Massachusetts
204A French Hall
University of Massachusetts
Amherst , MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135455228
Amanda Brown

[email protected]
Extension Educator
University of Massachusetts
250 Natural Resources Rd
Amherst, MA 01002
Office Phone: 4135453696
Website: www.umassvegetable.org
Lisa McKeag

[email protected]
Departmental Assistant
UMass Extension
250 Natural Resources Rd
Ag Engineering
Amherst, MA 01002
Office Phone: 4135773976