RainFresh Harvests Year-Round Food Production System for Central Ohio

Project Overview

FNC04-510
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $5,850.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $16,777.00
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Barry Adler
RainFresh Harvests

Information Products

Commodities

  • Agronomic: rye
  • Fruits: apples, melons, pears, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: cucurbits, greens (leafy), peppers, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
  • Animals: fish

Practices

  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, cover crops, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, physical control, row covers (for pests), sanitation, traps, mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: earthworms, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Summary:

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION
    The project was carried out from September 1, 2004 to December 1, 2005. Two greenhouses were completed in 2005 as part of RainFresh Harvests sustainable agriculture program — one is an off-the-grid renewable energy bio-integrated greenhouse and the other is a passive solar greenhouse. The proposed program intends to refine growing methods for maximizing year-round production of fresh herbs to the local market and to expand on vermicomposting, aquaponics, and small animal production as part of the overall bio-integrated farm program.

    RESULTS
    A one-acre site was developed during 2004 and 2005. It includes two greenhouses, a pond, and a field crop area. One greenhouse is a renewable energy bio-integrated building that is powered by a 1.0 kW wind turbine, 2.1 kW solar photovoltaics and heated with three solar thermal collectors. It is currently used to grow herbs, fish, and worms. The other greenhouse is a passive solar high tunnel design. It is used to grow herbs and raspberries. The field crop area was used to grow herbs, berries, and specialty vegetables this past summer. The main cash crop has been fresh cut herbs sold to a local restaurant (Northstar Café) and to a local grocer (Whole Foods). This continued through Thanksgiving of 2005, when problems with the plastic covering on the passive greenhouse and an inverter failure combined to allow temperatures to drop significantly, impacting crop quality to temporarily discontinue marketable harvests. Cooler season crops have been seeded and are expected to be in production in February 2006.

    The Whole Foods store just opened this fall (2005) and we have been unable to keep up with the demand. During the coming year, we will be able to better focus on growing more of the most desired fresh cut herb crops to meet this demand.

    Completion of the building and growing facilities has taken longer than expected due to a number of factors, including delayed grant reimbursements, back surgery, and the usual weather and labor related issues. Construction did not begin until December of 2004 for the building, which was operational by April 2005, but needed a lot of finishing inside before being able to grow crops. The double wall poly covering went on to the passive greenhouse this fall, but blower fans parts were not sized correctly and needed replacement, reducing insulation effectiveness. Interior aquaculture tanks were installed in late fall and fish production is scheduled to begin in early spring of 2006. About 3/4 of the renewable energy powered greenhouse is in production, but heating and insect issues have reduced yields. The bio-filtration system needs some modifications to improve flow-through and other improvements are proposed in a new grant application. Worms are actively composting herb and vegetable residues for use in potting mixes and for field crop topdressing.

    Yield increases and quality improvement were noted from the 2004 season to the 2005 season due to improved methods for raising planting beds. Tractor equipment using a tiller and discs to shape bed and grader box to level tops resulted in only about 3 to 4 inch beds in 2004. Settling from a rainy summer reduced drainage and subsequent growth. In 2005, annual areas were tractor tilled, with hand digging 2 foot pathways onto the 4 foot wide beds. Tops were raked or leveled with a smaller trimmer/tiller, resulting in 8 to 10 inch high raised beds in 2005.

    Overall, the program has been very successful based on the interest level of local farmers. Spring and fall tours were offered this year. Recent fall tours had about 60 visitors on the tour organized in cooperation with Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, and Chef Collaborative; plus another group of 30 on the Ohio Solar Tour hosted by Green Energy Ohio and the American Solar Energy Society. We have been inundated with requests for more information and tours and had to keep individual tours to a minimum. The Great Lakes Hydroponics Association is working with me to schedule a tour in the spring of 2006.

    A feature article in the Ohio Farm Bureau statewide magazine, “Our Ohio,” about wind power in agriculture contains complete photos and information about this project and can be found at: http://www.ourohio.org/mag/html/mag_2006/mag_j_feb_06_fe1_wind.php

    A website has been developed to more effectively handle dissemination of information. A photo gallery and monitoring data for the weather station and renewable energy equipment are also linked to the website at:

    Welcome to clean energy food!

    Project objectives:

    To develop a prototype system for small farms. The system will include a passive solar greenhouse, high tunnels and outdoor bio-intensive beds for production of herbs, specialty vegetables, fruits, free range chickens and aqua-culture crops.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.