[Market-farming] Cooling and storing produce

Tom at Limerock limerock at thirdplanet.net
Mon Jan 15 07:35:55 EST 2007


Pat  --  How did you 'rewire' your AC unit to be a cooler unit?

Thanks

Tom
Limerock Orchards


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Home Grown Kansas!
To: Market Farming
Sent: Sunday, January 14, 2007 3:38 PM
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Cooling and storing produce


I am writing from Kansas where we are enjoying a relaxing day in the house 
due to cold temperatures and ice rain which we have had all day.  We have 
grown on our urban farm for 15 years.  We grow a variety of greens in the 
spring and fall.  We grow culinary herbs and vegetables as well and sell to 
upscale Wichita restaurants and at two farmers markets - a Saturday morning 
one and a midweek market.  As every farm is different, I imagine each of us 
has a different way of harvesting and storing our produce.   We have a small 
outbuilding (approx 10X12) in which we installed a window air conditioning 
unit which we rewired to be a cooling unit.  We can keep the "cold shed" at 
about 42 - 55 degrees depending on the outdoor temperature.  This is a cost 
effective cooling source - much less than the traditional compressor used 
for a walk in cooler.  I usually harvest 20 - 30 pounds of lettuce  a day - 
harvesting it first thing in the morning while it is cool.  I then wash it 
and spin it dry (manually) and then bag it in vented plastic bags.  The 
vented bags allow for any excess moisture to escape so as not to result in 
soggy greens.  I then keep it in the cold shed until delivery.  I can keep 
it for maybe 3 days if neccessary but try not to store for very long.
Since okra is most prolific in the hot summer months and the temperature in 
the cold shed can't be maintained at a cool enough temperature, I find that 
my shelf life for the okra in my system is not more than a couple of days. 
When storing summer squash, after washing it I put it in cubed crates (much 
like what galloned milk is delivered in to stores) and then place a plastic 
bag over the crates before putting in the cool shed.  These crates stack 
great and I can get a great deal of produce in the shed.  The plastic bags 
and the moisture on the squash result in beautifully stored produce.  To the 
grower who is trying to hold things over a week I would suggest looking for 
some other outlets for sales.  As I said earlier, we go to a Wed and Sat 
Market.  We harvest for Saturday market on Thurs and Friday.  What we don't 
sell at market, I bring home and store in cooler until Monday.  I then 
harvest for restaurants/health food stores on Monday and can still include 
most of the Sat market leftovers in those orders.  I try to clean my cold 
shed out on Mondays.  What isn't sold is donated to the food bank.  This way 
they get good produce and I don't make the mistake of offering not so fresh 
produce to my customers.  Then, on Tuesday & Wed I harvest for the Wed 
afternoon market.  What is not sold comes to the cold shed.  I harvest 
Thursdays for restaurant orders and can include the Wed market leftovers in 
that.  Should it not be sold, it stores well until Saturday market and is 
sold there (be sure to sell it first so that if you bring home produce from 
Saturday market you are bringing home what will hold over until Mon).  I 
rest on Sunday and start all over again Monday.
Our cold shed has saved us so much money in lost produce that I would 
suggest that anyone growing more than they can sell the day of harvest 
should invest in some type of cooling unit.  Years ago I tried using large 
ice chests and they were a headache and not at all successful, not to 
mention hard to keep clean.
We've been enjoying this market farming list.  Hope you can glean something 
from this contribution to use in your food growing endeavors.  Pat






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