Deep Winter Food Production in the North Central Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $196,423.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Greg Schweser
Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy)


  • Crop Production: greenhouses, season extension, varieties and cultivars
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns

    Proposal abstract:

    University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) will partner with farmers and researchers to advance deep winter food production in Minnesota using Deep Winter Greenhouses (DWG). The DWG uses passive solar technology to store heat in a thermal mass of crushed rock to create an environment where low-light and cold-tolerant crops can grow throughout the winter with minimal use of fossil fuel heat. If widely adopted, this technology would allow small- and medium-scale farmers in the North Central Region to grow and market locally grown produce throughout the entire year. In the Deep Winter Food Production in the North Central Region project, researchers will conduct an enterprise analysis of existing DWGs to evaluate business performance and identify best practices; conduct horticultural trials to maximize production in this unique system; and host Extension outreach events to increase awareness of DWGs and share research results. This project will provide farmers looking to adopt DWG technology with the knowledge and skills needed to manage a successful DWG enterprise for deep winter food production.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Outcomes will give farmers the ability to make sound business decisions when incorporating Deep Winter Greenhouses into their enterprises.

    Learning outcomes include: Enterprise learning outcomes

    • Understand how to increase return on investment
    • Know how to maximize space
    • Identify optimal marketing channels Horticultural learning outcomes
    • Know the best winter crop varieties
    • Understand optimal seeding densities
    • Understand optimal horticultural substrate for winter production Action outcomes
    • Project research results shared broadly through producer networks and social media
    • DWG producers increase yields by adopting research recommendations

    •Producers make informed decisions to adopt DWG technology

    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.