Enhancing Year-Round Sales of Quality Farm Product through the Use of On-Farm Geothermal Climate Controlled Storage Facilities
We began working in March 2008 with project consultants to confirm all costs. A timeline was established with D.O. Corn & Sons to complete block work in the existing barn area that is the framework for the geothermal unit housing and storage room. D.O. Corn also worked with Randy Overman, geothermal consultant, on room size, insulation needs, and ceiling materials. D.O. Corn completed all block work mid-October. We have a bid on the geo-thermal furnace from Overman Plumbing and Heating, but are still deciding on the appropriate commercial unit for future sustainability needs. The original bid of $4,650 was for a unit that outputs 5 gallons of water per minute. We are considering the possibility of installing a commercial unit that has a higher water output because we want to incorporate a fish farm into a future sustainability project that would utilize the geo-thermal output. The initial payment of $3,000 from SARE is set aside for the budgeted portion of the geo-thermal unit and associated electrical labor costs for Overman Plumbing and Heating. The $6,000 cost of block work is a match from Fields of Agape, LLC. Revenue from field crops are being utilized for matching funds on this storage project. Field crops from the 2009 growing season will also fund a portion of this project. We are on target for a December 2009 completion date.
Since we learned of our award in March, we have worked with our geo-thermal consultant as well as a local construction company to determine appropriate materials for maximum efficiency in the storage facility. It was determined that cement blocks—insulated on the interior of the blocks, floor, and ceiling with R25 value sheets of insulation—would be the most cost effective to construct, most resistant to rodents and insects, and most efficient to maintain a constant temperature of around 50 degrees. This year’s field crops produced around 10,000 pounds of organic, edible grains and seeds. We constructed a small version of the storage room in a similar area which is concrete construction and cooled by geothermal. We were very pleased with the results: the crops were dry and pest free. In the past we’ve tried organic pest control solutions such as diatomaceous earth, but we found if the temperatures are not cool, those solutions are not successful when handling organic grains and seeds. We are very pleased with this year’s test results and are confident that the storage project will meet the grain storage needs that we face. We can maintain quality grains and seeds for our clients and other producers, who do not have the capacity to store several month’s supply of fresh grains and seeds.
WORK PLAN FOR 2009
In the coming months of 2009, we plan to complete a blue print with materials list for the completion of the storage room and geothermal room, which is constructed adjacent to the cold storage, but is still separate. We separated the geothermal unit to avoid any dampness within the cold storage. Estimated completion costs are $10,000. We will use specialty crop sales for matching funds to complete the storage project. We will meet with Randy Overman to finalize the decision on the geothermal unit that will provide maximum ground water output. Once the construction is complete, the geothermal unit will be installed. Overman Plumbing and Heating has already done some electrical work, and they will complete the wiring and run water lines as construction is completed. Our plan is to have the storage facility ready for the 2009 harvest in July. Upon installation of the geothermal, we will incorporate wind powered heaters/coolers and test their effectiveness in lowering energy costs. We formed a cooperative of sustainable farms this year that comprises about 60 acres. The field crops from this cooperative effort will be stored at our facility, and all crops are marketed under Fields of Agape, LLC. The cooperative members have also agreed that 2009 crop revenue can be applied as matching funds for completion of this project. We are planning field events at different phases of construction, with a final field event in September/October.
We were featured on Across Indiana, a Public Television production that aired in November. The production featured one of our organic sustainable crops, flax. We are also a featured farm for Ball State University, which has a very broad sustainability initiative. Twelve students from the Telecommunications Department visited our farm and filmed winter crops including garlic and wheat, and interviewed us regarding the importance of sustainable agriculture and local food sources. There are professors from other departments including Education, Center for the Aging, and Engineering who are interested in benefits of organic crops as well as how we are using geothermal and wind energy in the storage facility. I am a member of the Hancock Harvest Council, and am planning a program to present to the group with a follow-up field event. We are participating in a local Food Alliance and educating the public on the many uses of grains and flax seed, including grinding, sprouting, and recipes. I also plan to participate in a ‘Growing for Market’ series that is sponsored by Roy Ballard, Purdue extension Hancock County. I hope we can share ideas and mentor those producers interested in grain production and sustainable storage.