Staying Ahead in the Packshed: Improving Postharvest Equipment and Building Guidance for Fruit and Vegetable Farms

Project Overview

LNE19-375
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $129,567.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Christopher Callahan
University of Vermont Extension

Commodities

  • Agronomic: potatoes, radish (oilseed, daikon, forage)
  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (cranberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries), peaches, plums
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: ginger, herbs

Practices

  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety, postharvest treatment, season extension types and construction, water management, winter storage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, business planning
  • Pest Management: prevention, sanitation, passive exclusion of rodents and birds
  • Production Systems: postharvest handling and storage
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    PROBLEM AND JUSTIFICATION - Postharvest design, construction, and purchase decisions should be informed by and result in labor efficiency, produce safety, product quality and overall farm profitability. Growers in the northeast are investing in postharvest improvements as they increase production to serve increasingly demanding markets and meet produce safety requirements. Unfortunately, educational resources are lacking on this topic so educational programs and technical assistance tends to be ad hoc and inefficient.

    SOLUTION AND APPROACH - Our proposed solution is to consolidate existing knowledge, best practices and new developments about postharvest equipment, infrastructure, and buildings into a print publication, a webbased  handbook, workshop curriculum / educational materials, and recorded videos.  Our work will include (1) research into equipment and construction practices that are not common in the region and also (2) documentation of current best practices through case studies highlighting specific farms. This will benefit growers by 1) reducing the amount of individual grower research required to make postharvest  decisions (i.e. reduced overhead), 2) enabling practices that will improve labor efficiency (i.e. reduced labor expense), 3) supporting increased capacity (i.e. increase sales) 4) mitigating risk associated with produce safety factors (i.e. enhance sustainability.)   

    Performance targets from proposal:

    One hundred (100) fruit and vegetable growers will adopt improved postharvest equipment and building practices among practices resulting in $10,000 dollars annual net benefit to each farm.

    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.