Solar Energy for Sustainable Year-round Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,683.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Don Bustos
Santa Cruz Farm


  • Fruits: general
  • Vegetables: general
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal summary:

    The movement to “eat locally” has been a boon to small U.S. farmers, allowing many to make a living from local farmers markets or community-supported agriculture programs. However, fall and winter interrupts production, disrupting local eating patterns. Don Bustos of Santa Cruz Farms in Espanola, will use a Western SARE Farmer/Rancher grant to grow crops year round for local consumers. Using recycled solar panels, Bustos will collect energy to heat water in a large tank. The hot water will be channeled through tubes buried under small raised beds inside greenhouses. The circulation will raise the temperature of the soil, allowing the plants to grow faster and increasing yields. Bustos will also use a layering technique involving polyester woven cloth to keep the radiant heat near the soil surface. The process will allow him to grow leafy greens in full winter without costly fossil fuels. The project results will be shared through three workshops.

    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.