Brad Wicks has owned DenverFarmer.com along with his wife since 2014. His dedication to growing and selling organically grown vegetables and herb is tangible. Many of his blogs are about growing vegetable in the altitude, short season and soil challenges of the Metro Denver area of Colorado.
Cooler Cooler Part 2
For those of you that were wanting more information regarding my Cooler Cooler, I’ve finally finished the project, and it might just work! Last weekend we ran a test and found out two major problems with my original design as well as a handful of lesser issues that we needed to address before we could put this project to bed.
First was the entire original design. Although it was sound for the most part, it just took up to much vertical space in the cooler. My initial thoughts were to have two double polycarbonate panels with the ice packs in between, with the fan below the bottom-most panel. By the time I had all those levels in place, there was very little vertical space for the bags of greens. Additionally, the fan I purchased; 38 cubic feet per minute (cfm) didn’t produce enough flow to reach the furthest most parts of the piping.
Plan B...A new Cooler design
A Coleman cooler rediscovered.
One of the things that we're known for at the markets is our fresh greens. Harvested either the day before or the day of the market, we keep our lettuce mixes, arugula, kale, microgreens, and leafy greens in our cooler to retain the freshness of the produce throughout the markets. These procedures are essential as some of the markets can get pretty hot, and that heat and direct sun can literally cook greens left out.
However, bagging each customer's order at the time of purchase can get to be a pain and many times making customers wait as we work through the line of patrons. So at the end of
last season, I decided to come up with some way we can pre-bag the greens into pre-sized amounts, charge a single price for each, but keep them as fresh as we have in the past. After pricing electric coolers and considering the logistics of powering them, I had an epiphany...Why not come up with an air delivery system that circulated the cold air in the bottom of the cooler (down where the ice packs are) up and over the bags of greens? Luckily I have a friend that has a 3D printer and can engineer almost anything out of plastic. So after drawing up some plans for the cooler layout, I had him create a case for a 12v computer fan. This fan powered by rechargeable batteries will power the flow of air from the bottom of the cooler to the top, over the produce and then back down again to be recharged by the ice at the bottom. In theory, this should allow the cooler to act just like an opened top cooler at a grocery store.
Our new caterpillar tunnels will make all the difference!
First off, thank you NRCS for the all the help in allowing us to make these purchases of tunnels. A special shout out to Maria who worked very hard in helping me with the paperwork and putting up with my sometimes less than pleasant attitude (if you know what I mean). She was great!
I'm not sure when I first contact anyone about the hoop house program, but I remember what I heard; you've got two weeks to finish the paperwork and have it submitted and approved. Apparently, I waited too long to make that phone call. Nevertheless, it was on. So I hustled through the paperwork, submitted it, and had Maria come out to the farm for approval. Because we have two location, I was able to get approval for a hoop house at both places along with irrigation, crop rotation, and winter cover crops. I was beside myself with joy. This grant would allow us to take the space we had and utilize it from early spring (much earlier than we were able to do in the past) all the way through late fall. This extended growing season will mean all the difference at the markets next year, letting us sell our produce versus buying greenhouse produce from some of the local growers. That alone will help with the bottom line.
Instead of a traditional hoop house, I decided to invest in caterpillar tunnels from Farmer's Friend LLC. They come in two lengths: 50x14 and 100x14. They are easy to install about two; hours for the 100-foot model, are quickly moved to a different location and well made and durable. In addition to having a plastic (6 mil) cover, they also have the option for a shade cloth cover. Shade is less of an issue for most crops, but we are known for our Farmer's Mix lettuce, arugula, and spinach, and these types of plants do well with a little shade. More importantly, though, the shade cloth will also provide an excellent cover to protect everything from our typical Colorado hail storms. Two years ago we were wiped out after a big hail storm and barely missed being in the same boat this last year. There is no way we can ensure that hail won't batter our crop, even in a polycarbonate greenhouse if the hail is big enough it's going to do some real damage. At least with the tunnels, we have a fighting chance that the smaller hail will be less of an issue.
So this winter I'll be assembling hoops, measuring diagonals to square up the tunnels, driving rebar, and getting everything set up for a fast start at the farm and the house. If you are interested in more information about these tunnels, I'll include a link at the bottom of this post. I don't have any affiliate agreement with Farmer's Friend; I just think that they have some great products (I own many of them) and would recommend them to anyone. In the future, I'm sure I'll post more about the tunnels as things progress. If anyone would like to talk to me about my experience with them, I love to share, just contact me, and we'll discuss.
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 16:27
A genetically modified organism (GMO), also known as a transgenic organism, is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.
We don’t know how everyone else feels about GMO’s, but we’d like to share our personal feelings regarding the use of genetically modified food. We think it’s wrong! Below we cite a page directly from the Institute for Responsible Technology’s website (10-Reasons-to-Avoid-GMOs). We think it says it all.
1. GMOs are unhealthy.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.
Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.
The American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that condemn the use of GM bovine growth hormone because the milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)―which is linked to cancer.
2. GMOs contaminate―forever.
GMOs cross-pollinates and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 15:35
We’ve started the process of becoming Organically certified by the USDA. I’m beginning to see why so few farms go the trouble of becoming certified. The process seems to be daunting.
We started by doing our due diligence and exploring the USDA’s organic program website. As many of you know I teach broadcast television and website design at the Colorado Media School located in Belmar. I mention this because if I had a student create a website as convoluted as the USDA’s, I’d make them do it again. The document regarding the rules of organic production makes a 56-page pdf file. Finding this material is like pulling teeth, slow and painful. I’ve spent hours at the computer surfing through the content trying to find a comprehensive list of steps to become an organic farm.
I did garner that the first real step was to contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture and talk to the individual that ran the Organic program here in our state. As an alternative, I learned that there were private companies that were certified to approve me and our operation. Good thing, as the representative from the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture, informed me that they had stopped taking applications. Apparently, they did not have the manpower to process the applications that they already had. I was told that they might begin taking applications in the future, but they did not have the permission to do so yet.