UC Davis Guide: Small-Scale Postharvest Practices

This guide from the UC Davis Postharvest Center is jam packed with information relevant to VT’s small-scale growers seeking improved post-harvest handling and processing. I think it is a nice companion to the New England Vegetable Management Guide and USDA’s Handbook 66. The UC Davis Postharvest Center has a wonderful on-line library with many other titles which may be of interest including an overview of small-scale cold room options and one on root cellars and other passive storage options.

One question that seems to come up regularly is “how big a cooler do I need?”  I’d recommend grower’s review Table 7 in Heatcraft’s Engineering Manual which includes typical “product loading densities” in pounds per cubic foot.  Based on your typical yields and acres in production you can use this to estimate a reasonably sized storage space.

“The three main objectives of applying postharvest technology to harvested fruits and vegetables are:

  1. to maintain quality (appearance, texture, flavor and nutritive value)
  2. to protect food safety, and
  3. to reduce losses between harvest and consumption.

Effective management during the postharvest period, rather than the level of sophistication of any given technology, is the key in reaching the desired objectives. While large scale operations may benefit from investing in costly handling machinery and high-tech postharvest treatments, often these options are not practical for small-scale handlers. Instead, simple, low cost technologies often can be more appropriate for small volume, limited resource commercial operations, farmers involved in direct marketing, as well as for suppliers to exporters in developing countries.”

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