Maximizing the Harvest

Carrots, potatoes, and other cold-season crops can be found at the winter farmers market many months after harvest thanks to careful storage Photo Credit: Lee Krohn Photography

By Garland Mason

As we head into winter, farms are preparing to pull the last of their sweet potatoes, beets, winter squash, and onions out of the soil. The imminent harvest does not mean that this is the last we’ll be seeing of those crops, however. Proper storage of winter crops allows for the sale of good quality vegetables clear into the spring.

Winter markets throughout our area have a track record of success.  This is spurring newer vendors and a broader base of customers seeking local foods all year long.  This market-based opportunity is spurring many farmers to grow for winter sales.  To succeed in the winter marketplace, storage is critical. Investing in improved storage systems is one decision many farmers are facing as they seek to maximize the amount, variety and quality of their stored crops.

To help farmers develop and improve on-farm storage infrastructure, UVM Extension with support from the USDA’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program will offer five full day workshops on crop storage throughout Vermont this fall. Workshops will focus on long-term storage of crops for sale through the winter and into early spring, but will be relevant to many agricultural and food storage needs.

Workshops will be open to fruit and vegetable growers, aggregators, processors and distributors of all scales. Farmers who already have systems in place will benefit from an enhanced understanding of the storage needs of each crop and will gain ideas about how to increase efficiency or expand existing systems. Farmers who have not yet begun to store crops will benefit from in-class work time devoted to designing an individualized system from scratch. Participants will leave with the skills and knowledge to create or enhance their crop storage systems based and the individual needs of each farm and the various crops they grow and store.

The classes will be taught by UVM Extension Agricultural Engineer, Chris Callahan. Chris’s work focuses on enhancing Vermont’s food systems through education and outreach programs focused on analysis, design, evaluation and adoption of infrastructure, technology and equipment that meets the needs of food producers and processors.

These one-day workshops will be held in Brattleboro September 17th, in Rutland September 19th, in White River Junction October 9th, in St. Johnsbury October 10th, and in Shelburne October 16th.

Participants from neighboring states are encouraged to attend. The fee for the course is $20 and will include light breakfast and lunch, a pre-course workbook, reference material. More information on how to register for a workshop visit UVM’s Ag Engineering Blog http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/storageworkshop/ or contact the Rutland Extension office at 802-773-3349.

For those looking to expand storage of garden-grown vegetables at home, check out the book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike Bubel or really dig in with a weekend class on building your own root cellar at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School  in Warren, Vermont this fall.

Garland Mason works for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, heading up the New Farmer Initiative and Farm to School and Institution activities. She lives and farms West Tinmouth.

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