Vegetable producers in northern Wisconsin are having success marketing their produce via community supported agriculture, but with the very short growing season they are looking for ways to extend their marketing season. The Lake Superior CSA, for example, is operated by the Bayfield Regional Food Producers Cooperative and provides a Whole Diet share including meats, fruits, and vegetables from late-May through early-March. The winter vegetables are primarily storage crops like carrots, potatoes, garlic, and winter squash and to retain existing and attract new customers the growers want to diversify their winter vegetable offerings. In partnership with Jason Fischbach of UW-Extension, the growers have conducted on-farm research to optimize winter high-tunnel spinach production and through that work now supply spinach October-April. With that success, the growers would like to now optimize frozen vegetables for direct sale to consumers and to wholesalers.
In addition to expansion of regional CSA, the growers have partnered with Northland College to help meet the College’s goal of 80% local foods. To that end, Northland established the Food Lab, which includes a processing kitchen and blast freezer. Through this project, we will identify varieties of carrots, potatoes, green beans, and broccoli best suited for blast freezing.
Project objectives from proposal:
1.Conduct on-farm variety trials to evaluate the yield, pest-resistance, and maturity of 5 varieties each of carrots, green beans, broccoli, and potatoes.
2a. Blast freeze samples of each of the varieties included in the farm trials for sensory panel evaluation of texture, color, and flavor at 1, 3, and 6 months after freezing.
2b. Blast freeze samples of 40 of the top performing varieties from the UW-Madison Seed-to-Kitchen vegetable variety trials for sensory panel evaluation of texture, color, and flavor at 1, 3, and 6 months after freezing.