About the Project
The barn-house is 36’x48’ and has two stories of 1The Barnhouse: Optimised for Modern Day Vegetable Farming
Taylor Hutchison and Jake Mendel own and operate Footprint Farm in Starksboro, VT. Starting their own farm in 2013 they now produce pretty much everything except storage potatoes and storage squash with 66 different kinds of vegetables grown in both fields and high-tunnels.
Location: Starksboro, Vermont
Total of 2.5 acres
1.5 acres in production
1 acre in cover crops each year
USDA Sales Bracket: $100,000-249,999
Crops: Greens, tomatoes and root crops and more with 66 different types of vegetables grown
Markets: CSA, farmers markets, restaurant/wholesale accounts
Crew: 4 total in summer (___-October), 2 in winter (October – ____)
Wash/Pack operation: Triple bay greens washing with converted washing machine salad spinner, Barrel/drum washer, bunch was,782 square feet. Two-thirds of the first floor is dedicated for washing and packing, the other third includes space for an egg washing station, cooler, employee break area, restroom, and a shop The 2nd floor is finished living space.
Special considerations that went into the design process included what were the main crops that will be washed, and what aspects of that process was uncomfortable. For them, the focus on greens washing was was the main priority.
Building materials were carefully considered to be durable, washable, and water resistant. In the wash area, they chose to go with ribbed metal for the interior walls to meet these requirements.
Produce safety was in mind during the design process what are some of the key elements?
- Highly durable, and a bright clean space to deter or spot pest intrusion
- Separation of clean and dirty bins
- Covered bin storage area
- Egg cleaning area separated from produce, even with its own access
- Easily cleanable floor (concrete) and walls (metal)
- Propper drainage to control water
- Bright lighting (easy to see dirt and grime)
- Wash water is sourced from a drilled well
Taylor stated during the interview that the post-harvest handling is so fast now from the field, into a climate controlled area that the opportunity for damage or contamination risk is controlled and minimised.
Many design features were implemented to make this a very practical space. One example would be 4’ wide people doors for easy maneuverability or an overhead door where product comes in. A trench drain was installed in the wash space and drains the wash water out into a dedicated leach field constructed with perforated pipe and ends in a gravel area.
Labor savings both in time and money have seen has been seen as a result of this new build. Having a place for everything makes it easy to find, on wheels for adaptability and having enough space to work make it easy to get the vegetables to market as quickly and easily as possible.
A typical cleaning procedure for the harvest containers, tools, and equipment consist of a daily rinse off of dirt and debris and scrubbing with soap and water as needed. For example, after harvesting squash or other vegetables that can leave a sticky sap. Everything gets a scrub down with soap and water monthly if not needed prior.
Explained in a caption of a picture of the floor plan.
“We wanted to do year-round production with-out a winterized building and it was too painful on our hands to be able to wash greens through the winter.” They also had problems getting rid of the wash water with nowhere for it to drain. The continued growth pointed towards having employees in the winter and they couldn’t put others through the pain of cold wet hands. At the time of planning, they also were commuting to the farm and wanted to build a house on location and determined it made more much more sense to build one combined building rather than two separate ones. This simplified both planning and construction and reduced worrying about how to winterize both a barn for work and a house for living.
Another great benefit that’s arisen from the barn-house build is that the profitability is greatly increased due to product quality improvements. Cull rates have plummeted, and shelf life has greatly improved which has increased total sales, and volumes. Reducing waste in both time, and food production!
The total cost to build the barnhouse was about $300,000. The contractors they worked with said that a project like this fully hired out would have cost close to half a million dollars.
Tactics to keep costs down
- Self-designed the building
- Help out with the construction
- Milled the lumber on-site
Natural light through large windows, and everything painted white with tall ceilings make it a bright and cheery place to work.
Building a shed roof on one side to create covered space outside the building has been wonderful to store equipment, like lawn mowers, and hand tools or even to hang a hammock and park the bike.
This project was well thought out and the benefits far outweigh the regrets. A few things that didn’t go as planned was the floor didn’tdidnt get pitch perfectly to the drain, so water doesn’t flow into as wellgood as it should. Taylor wishes there was a person-people door in addition to the garage door on the side where the product comes in, but the rest of the crew agrees one is not needed. They had to change the way they pull up from the field to their unloading space due to the location of the septic, which changes the flow of operation which is less than ideal. Other than thinking about septic placement a little further ahead of time, regrets so far are minimal items like light switch placement and a few small things like that.
Key influences and partners
USDA REAP Program – This Rural Energy for America Program is a grant that paid for ___ of the solar panels installed by SunCommon which cover all of their electrical cost for the entire year! Learn more about their decision to go solar in this video. https://vimeo.com/270172054
Coolbot (Store It Cold) was helpful for temperature differences causing humidity and condensation
Consultation from other farming peers like Daniell from Root 5 Farm in Fairlee for their building design with covered outdoor space or Christa from Jericho Settlers Farm for guidance influencing natural light to make it an enjoyable space. Ben Hartman, farmer of Clay Bottom Farm and author of The Lean Farm helped nail down the flow of production.
University of Vermont Extension Ag Engineering for guidance on wall finishes surfaces.
VVBGA CAPS with examples of how to make things comfortable and good for food safety.
Need to write a conclusion paragraph summarising the impact of this decision to build. Food safety, increased profits, reduced food waste, green energy, enjoyable place to work, profitability etc.
Go to our YouTube Channel to watch the interview with Taylor or to see their wash-pack space in action!