[Market-farming] limitations of AC coolers

JOHN A HENDRICKSON jhendric at wisc.edu
Wed Jan 17 07:52:31 EST 2007


I think coolers are a must for most fresh market produce farms...more important ultimately than any other piece of equipment on the farm.  I've seen "fresh picked" produce from CSA farms and at farmers markets that is LESS fresh than supermarket produce because of inadequate post harvest handling and lack of a cooler.  Vegetables start to die the moment they are harvested.  Unless field heat is removed and the dying process is slowed, the produce quickly looses quality and nutrients.  None of the market growers I know use coolers as an excuse to sell old produce, they use them to cool and hold produce overnight or for a couple days so that it can withstand the rigors of sitting at a CSA drop site or at a sunny, windy farmers market.  Such produce is still 7-14 days newer and fresher than the stuff at a supermarket.  My two cents...

-John

----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Schuler <sunnfarm at verizon.net>
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 7:07 pm
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] limitations of AC coolers
To: Market Farming <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>


> Paul, you are right, ac cannot remove field heat and true agricultural 
> grade cooling requires removing field heat right into the core of the 
> produce not just the surface. If you put a melon with a core temp of 
> 70 degrees in a ac cool room the surface will feel cold but the the 
> inside of the melon will still be 70 degrees for days after. At my 
> Coop will use vacuum cooling that sucks the field heat out of the 
> produce right to the core then the produce can be held in a cool room. 
> Unfortunately vacuum coolers are a bit costly for a small farm. 
> On my farm I do not use any cooling. I tell customers that coolers are 
> just an excuse to sell old produce. If you want old cooled produce you 
> can go to the supermarket. People who buy off the farm expect produce 
> to be fresh picked not days old... Bob.
> Sunny Meadow Farm
> Bridgeton, NJ.
> 
> From: Paul Bucciaglia <pbucciaglia at yahoo.com>
> Date: 2007/01/16 Tue PM 12:12:58 CST
> To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: [Market-farming] limitations of AC coolers
> 
>    I don't mean to be a wet rag (no pun intended), but I found Air 
> conditioned coolers to be limited in their usefulness.</div>  
> <div> </div>  <div>They are fine for crops that are best stored 
> between 55F and 65F.  I have a cooler made from panels ripped from a 
> liquor store--we cut a hole in the back, mounted an old window AC, and 
> wa-laa you have a good cooler for crops that like it cool and dry:  
> tomatos, melons, and eggplant.  We also store unwashed spuds (short 
> term) in there.</div>  <div> </div>  <div>However, this is not a good 
> cooler for greens, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, etc.  I find these 
> crops store best from 34 to 38F, and trying get a large mass of warm 
> (even if they are hydrocooled), wet produce down to these temps, and 
> held there, is a tall order for an AC.  And I'm not even metnioning 
> the ice-up problems, even though others have found ways to defrost 
> their frozen-up ACs.  Actually, that fact alone should be a warning 
> buzzer about this whole idea!     You can find very reasonable coolers 
> from restarants or grocery stores that are selling out.  A few years 
> ago we put up a 12X18' cooler on the concrete floor in our barn.  The 
> used panels and condenser cost $1000 pulled from a local grocery store 
> (with about 60 ft. of nice roller track thrown in), and a new 
> compressor plus professional wiring ran about 3 grand as I recall.  I 
> should count labor when putting it up, so it was all under 5 grand.  
> When you consider that this should last (at least!) 10 years, that 
> means refrigertation capital/maintenance costs for my crops run less 
> than $550  a year, which is less than 0.5% of my annual gross income 
> from produce sales.   Lots of bang for the buck there, IMOP.   Because 
> good post harvest handling is so crucial to quality produce, I 
> consider this cooler an essential investment at a very small annual 
> cost.       Paul  Fort Hill Farm      
> 
> Paul Bucciaglia
> Fort Hill Farm
> Organic Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers
> 18 Fort Hill Rd.
> New Milford CT 06776
> (860) 350-3158
> www.forthillfarm.com
> 
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