Addressing seasonality barriers in farm-to-college initiatives with winter storage vegetables

2008 Annual Report for CNE08-043

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2008: $9,701.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:

Addressing seasonality barriers in farm-to-college initiatives with winter storage vegetables


“Addressing Seasonality Barriers in Farm to College Initiatives with Winter Storage Vegetables” is focused on addressing the seasonality barrier that many Southeastern Pennsylvania farms face when trying to meet the institutional market demands through the winter. We are concentrating on the feasibility of growing for winter storage and the construction of individual or cooperative root cellars to meet the institutional demand. We will also assess the breadth of the institutional demand for particular products, quantities and additional qualities, like fresh cut produce, as these elements will impact what farmers should be growing and storing.

Objectives/Performance Targets

We have recently begun the first phase of our project, which runs from November 2008 through February 2009. This phase is focused on researching what it takes for a small to medium-sized farm to grow and store winter crops. During this time, the project manager will visit Charlestown Farm in Chester County, PA and Elm Tree Organics in Lancaster County, PA. Both are smaller farms that have recently built root cellars. Charlestown Farm has a local CSA and sells to restaurants in their area. Elm Tree Organics sells through the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. The project manager must visit both of the farms and gather in-depth information from the farmers regarding feasibility of growing and storing winter vegetables. This includes the costs, building plans, staff needs and profit potential. Initially, this phase of the project also included surveying a wide array of local farms to assess their capacity to produce higher quantities of vegetables for storage; however, we decided to survey growers after all of the preliminary research has been completed.


  • Created preliminary survey for growers

    Completed survey for institutions; This survey has been combined with other questions for the Farm to Institution program and will be sent out as one survey

    Identified about 20 Philadelphia institutions to survey; many are from our Farm to Institution program’s Working Group

    Institutional survey to be distributed to institutions the first week of January, when institutions and schools are back from winter break. Follow up will be completed by the end of January

    Visited Charlestown Farm and spoke with Liz Anderson about one-year-old root cellar

    Established relationship with consultant Jeff Hyde of Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences

    Connected with Claire Morenon of CISA in Massachusetts, who is working on a similar project

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Farm Research
Since this project has a timeline of November to May, we are still in the beginning stages. The grower surveys were scheduled to be distributed during this first phase of the project; however, it became apparent that the farm visits and research were necessary beforehand. Now, the farms will be surveyed in February-March, once we have a better understanding of what it takes to grow and store winter vegetables but before the growing season gets very busy.

The visit to Charlestown Farm in early December was very helpful. Liz Anderson gave an in-depth tour of the farm operation and explained what went into building the root cellar. This farm is a particular case because they had the capital to hire builders to construct the root cellar into a new barn on the farm property. She is sending the project manager financial and building details, as well as information on the impact the root cellar has had on their winter sales.

The project manager will visit Elm Tree Organics in January or February. November was a difficult month to visit, since the farmers were particularly busy on the farm and with the Amish wedding season.

A consulting relationship with Jeff Hyde of Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences has been established. He will help analyze the farm-related data collected through the winter

Institutional Research
Although the project initially focused on meeting the demand for local food from area colleges, we are expanding this to include institutions like hospitals and elder care facilities, since they are some of the most committed, interested, and consistent buyers of local food. Fair Food currently works with about 20 of these types of institutions in the Greater Philadelphia area that are already purchasing from local farms, cooperatives and Philadelphia’s 100% local distributor. This group comprises our Farm to Institution program’s Working Group and also includes some institutions that are not currently buying local but have expressed interest.

Finally, we had planned to survey the institutions on the demand expectations of storage vegetables such as potatoes, onions, winter squash, turnips, carrots and others vegetables during the last phase of the project in May. However, through our Farm to Institution program, we are currently working with the Working Group to prepare for our meeting in late January. While we have their focused attention, we will survey the institutions in early January and follow up throughout the month. This way, we will also get responses from institutions while winter (and winter crops) are still on their minds.


Liz and Bill Andersen

Charlestown Farm
Eli Fisher

Elm Tree Organics
Jeffrey Hyde

Penn State College of Ag Sciences
Chris Poshpeck

Deep Root Organic