Midwest Summer Greens Production – The Effect of Shade on Yield and Quality

Project Overview

FNC20-1258
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $6,565.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Small Farm Systems LLC
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Emily Wright
Small Farm Systems LLC

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)

Practices

  • Crop Production: cropping systems, season extension types and construction, shade cloth
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Summary:

    This project seeks to develop optimal conditions for the production of fresh salad greens in a challenging climate – the hot, humid summers of the Midwest U.S.

    We grow and harvest more than fifty varieties of produce in a typical season, with gross revenues exceeding $60,000/acre. More than a third of our income is derived from the production of leafy greens, including lettuce, spinach and various brassicas such as mustard greens and arugula. These are high value crops with a local demand that is steadily increasing – from restaurants, grocery stores, and local consumers. Enhancing our farm’s capacity to supply lettuce and other greens during the height of summer will improve the economic viability of our operation, increase our ability to meet the local demand, and contribute to a robust and healthy local food system. This project will serve as a model that can be replicated by farmers with similar challenging growing environments. We have tested the methods outlined in this proposal on a small scale, but this research will allow us to hone in on optimal growing conditions, collect valuable data to support our model, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of our design. 

    Project objectives:

    1. Evaluate the effect of shade on summer greens production, including lettuce, spinach and mustard greens.
    2. Assess our capacity to provide locally-grown greens throughout the season, including in the height of summer.
    3. Compare and document yield and quality of crops grown with 50% shade, 30% shade, and without shade.
    4. Share our production system and findings with growers who face similar challenging summer growing conditions. 
    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.