Staying Ahead in the Packshed: Postharvest Topics, Sources of Information, and Ideas from Growers

Last Fall we surveyed growers in the region about postharvest topics in preparation for a USDA NE SARE proposal. That proposal has been funded! Growers who responded assigned a high level of importance to aggregated postharvest knowledge (4.5/5.0, n=56) while indicating poor availability of the information (3.3/5.0, n=57). Several ideas for research topics were provided as well.

Continue reading Staying Ahead in the Packshed: Postharvest Topics, Sources of Information, and Ideas from Growers

Getting Started with a Growth Chamber

We’ve received a number of inquiries about building germination chambers so we have decided to provide some consolidated resources and guidance.

An important first step is to consider what the purpose of the chamber actually is.  There are a number of horticultural practices that benefit from dedicated, environmentally controlled spaces. These include germination, starting, propagation/transplanting, sprouting of tubers and rhizomes, and grafting. These all fall under the category of “growth chambers.”

Continue reading Getting Started with a Growth Chamber

Cooler Construction Options – Walls and Panels

There are many options when it comes to constructing a walk-in cooler, cold room, or warm room for on-farm storage.

The main goals for construction of any temperature and humidity controlled space are:

  • Insulate the walls to provide for efficiency temperature control against a different outside temperature (which may be an warmer inside space)
  • Seal corners and seams to prevent air and rodent infiltration
  • Protect framing and insulation with smooth, cleanable materials and vapor barrier to prevent moisture and condensation inside the walls.

The resources below should provide an overview of common cooler wall construction options. Continue reading Cooler Construction Options – Walls and Panels

Briquetting a Better, Burnable Cow Patty

The Biomass Beast, Rose Marie Belforti’s creation motivated by her interest in finding an on-farm use for excess manure and bedding. A mixture of manure and bedding are fed into the red hopper from above and the hydraulic press compresses the mixture to form a briquette. The briquette is solar dried and burns well in a wood stove.

Chris recently served as a technical advisor to Rose Marie Belforti on her recent NE-SARE funded project to demonstrate a hydraulic press used to make fuel briquettes from manure and bedding.  The machine, dubbed the “Biomass Beast” by Rose, was built for $5,766 and Rose demonstrated production of briquettes at a rate of 90 dry pounds per hour for 3 cents per dry pound.  The briquettes were found to have 6,481 BTU/lb (at 10.5% moisture content) which compared favorably to dry cord wood (e.g. 5,649 BTU/lb for sugar maple at 10% moisture). They burned easily and well. All in all, the cost of production and the heating value suggests that these briquettes deliver energy at a cost of about $4.4 per million BTU (roughly the equivalent of $105 per cord of firewood or $0.60 per gallon of fuel oil).

Continue reading Briquetting a Better, Burnable Cow Patty

Hanging Hoses

Having water when and where you need it can make a big difference in vegetable wash station efficiency. Planning for multiple “drops” or spigots around the wash area can make it more convenient to access water where it is needed. It can be helpful to consider the routing of the supply lines to avoid condensation on people and produce.  Cold water flowing through the lines on a warm humid day can result in condensation of water that can drop from the lines.  Running the lines away from walkways and produce areas can avoid this being a problem.  Running the lines down low in wash areas can also help keep any condensation exposure at a minimum.

Also, investing in a hose hanger, hose reel or a trolley can help keep the hose off the ground, resulting in a cleaner and more safe work environment. Continue reading Hanging Hoses

Lessons in Ergonomics from My Grandmother

I recently had the opportunity to record a public service announcement (PSA) for WDEV.  This is part of a series of PSA’s the UVM Extension colleagues contribute to. I decided to focus on ergonomics and shared some lessons from my grandmother and other sources. Click below to listen.

The text and additional resources are available below.

Continue reading Lessons in Ergonomics from My Grandmother

Simple Ergonomics and Lean Thinking at Chewonki Farm

I recently visited Chewonki, a school, camp, and farm in Wisscasset, ME that had a recent visit from an ergonomics consultant at their beautiful new pack shed. Some insurance companies offer these visits for free as an injury (and claim) prevention measure.

Several things that struck me:

  • They were experimenting with different heights for wash bins, harvest crate landing zones, and drying racks using combinations of cinder blocks, stacked pallets and adjustable kitchen racks. They have a constantly changing work crew of different ages and physical abilities. I thought it was a great way of settling into a new workspace and getting a feel for efficiency, flow, and positions of things before committing with permanent fixtures.
    Lessons learned:

    • bring the work to you, and
    • prototype your layout before building anything permanent.

 

  • The tool shed attached to the wash packed shed was highly organized. Again, with a dynamic, changing crew it is important that tool location be standard and searching be minimized.
    Lessons learned:

    • a place for everything, and everything in its place.

 

  • I loved the lighter grey stock tankss / waterers they were using. They allow easy checks for water change timing (vs. darker materials).
    Lessons learned:

    • consider all options when purchasing what seems like a simple, standard thing
    • passive solutions to challenges often come at little to no cost premium.

Thanks to the fine fine folks at Chewonki for hosting me and sharing some of the great work they’re doing. They also have a whale skeleton hanging in one of their main halls. That is another story.

All About Alliums – Twilight Meeting

High Meadows Farm

Onions laid out in a single layer for curing in a greenhouse.

July 12, 2018

5 – 7 PM

FREE

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1661423530613433/

Join Howard Prussack of High Meadows Farm, University of Vermont Agricultural Engineer Chris Callahan and Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Specialist Crystal Stewart for a field walk discussing garlic and onion production and postharvest handling. The event will include a focus on Fusarium control practices, a hands-on demonstration of Allium Leaf Miner identification and discussion of control strategies, followed by a discussion of post-harvest handling best practices and ways to achieve these conditions at your farm.

Curing garlic in a high tunnel. The garlic is carefully stacked to allow air distribution among the heads for even curing.

High Meadows farm is a 65 Acre organic, diversified vegetable farm of rolling hills, fertile soils, surrounded by oak and maple woodlands. Situated just a short drive from the center of Putney, VT, it is Vermont’s oldest certified organic Farm. Howard Prussack and his team have been providing the community and greater New England with premium organic vegetables and potted plant plants since 1979.

UVM Extension helps individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.

To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Chris Callahan at 802-447-7582 x256 by July 5 so we may assist you.

For more information, please contact Chris Callahan, chris.callahan@uvm.edu, 802-447-7582 x256.

Produce Safety in Broccoli

Chris recently teamed up with Dr. Elizabeth Bihn of Cornell University and the Produce Safety Alliance to provide a webinar on produce safety aspects of broccoli production.  This work is part of a larger USDA SCRI project focused on Eastern Broccoli as a specialty crop with economic importance and potential in the region.

This webinar focused on the impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act and specifically the Produce Safety Rule on broccoli production in the eastern United States.

A recording of the webinar is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

The presentation slides are available here.