Incubator Update: Walk-in Cooler builds Incubator Farmer Capacity!

For the past two seasons, the farmers at the Groundswell Center’s Incubator Farm have been producing a wide variety of crops for both wholesale and retail customers.  Since the start-up costs for farm businesses are generally very high, one of the goals of the Groundswell Incubator Farm is to reduce the costs of key infrastructure and equipment for beginning producers, thus reducing the risk of entering the field.  Over the past 3 years, Groundswell has installed 5.5 acres of deer fencing, farm-wide irrigation and a hoophouse, as well as purchased key equipment like a walk-behind tractor and digital scales.  These pieces have helped the Incubator Farmers produce more of the quality crops they enjoy growing, but in order to successfully market their produce they still need better post-harvest infrastructure.

Surik Mehrabyan who runs Hill Side Farm at the Incubator, grows many vegetable varieties that are traditional in the Northeast, including eggplant, potatoes, garlic, peppers, squash, tomatoes, beans, and beets.  Surik has found several wholesale markets and retail customers who are able to purchase his crops fresh from the field, but any crops that he can’t sell fresh he has to either store at home, or compost.  When he harvests to go the Brooktondale Farmers’ Market, Surik can only pick as much as he thinks he can sell that day, because he doesn’t have a cooler to keep produce fresh until later in the week for his other markets.  By simply extending the freshness of crops by a few days, Surik will be able to sell a much larger portion of his harvest and in turn increase the profitability of his business.

In order to increase the capacity of our incubator farmers, Groundswell hopes to build an 8’ x 12’ walk-in cooler that will allow the farmers to store their crops, rather than having to market everything fresh out of the field.  This will give the farmers much more flexibility in marketing their products, meaning a larger amount of their harvest will be sold and they will be able to sell it at better prices.

But we can’t do this without your support!

Help Groundswell build this important piece of infrastructure for the Incubator Farmers by donating to the Groundswell Walk-in Cooler Campaign!  We are trying to raise $2000 by July 1st in order to have the Cooler ready in time for harvest!

More about the Walk-in Cooler

The Groundswell Walk-in Cooler will be made out of an 8’ x 12’ enclosed cargo trailer, with hinged double doors to provide quick and easy access for all of the Incubator farmers.  Groundswell will add 2” insulation around all the walls and ceiling, and install the cooling unit, made out of an 18,000 BTU air conditioner and a Coolbot microcontroller.  The Coolbot (visit storeitcold.com) is designed to work with the large A/C unit to get the room down to freezing temperatures without freezing up.  This system is especially elegant for small farmers, because the up-front cost is far less than standard refrigeration coolers and it will take much less electricity to create the same cooling power!  We are very excited to get our own system up and running!

For more information, please feel free to contact Groundswell’s Incubator Program Manager, Devon Van Noble, at devon@groundswellcenter.org.