Patchwork Green Farm field day will explore packhouse design, harvest methods
For Release: September 9, 2016
Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]
DECORAH, Iowa — For Erik Sessions and Sara Peterson, who raise vegetables at Patchwork Green Farm near Decorah, their packhouse and root cellar are key pieces of their farm infrastructure. The packhouse is where harvested produce is staged, sorted, washed and packed before heading to market, while the root cellar lets them store and sell certain crops for an extended time.
Both facilities play a big role in their farm’s efficiency and overall income – and to maintaining their standard of “selling vegetables that are exceptionally clean, neatly packed or bunched, appropriately chilled or cured, and taste wonderful.” After dreaming for 15 years about a better packing facility and root cellar, they have finally upgraded both. While they are still figuring out how to best use these new facilities, they are already noticing many benefits of the improved designs.
“Upgrading our packhouse from a gravel floor to a concrete slab is a huge improvement,” Erik says. “It’s easier to wash, there are no weeds, it’s always level and is much more sanitary. The building itself is bug- and mouse-proof for worry-free storage, and is a good place to keep tomatoes, garlic and crops that shouldn’t get too cold.
“Our root cellar is insulated concrete construction, with a washable interior. We installed a Coolbot system to cool it down and maintain temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees in fall and winter. Last winter, we were able to keep potatoes in good, saleable condition until they were sold out in late March.”
Erik and Sara will share their experience with designing and using these improved tools at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Sunday, Sept. 25, from 1-3:30 p.m., near Decorah (3031 Middle Hesper Rd., about 6 miles north of town). The event – “Packhouse Tour and Harvest Efficiency” – is free to attend, and will feature hearty snacks after the program. Please RSVP for the food to [email protected] or (515) 232-5661 by Thursday, Sept. 22. The field day is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther College and Oneonta Community Food Cooperative.
Attendees will tour the production area, and learn about the design and construction of both the packhouse and root cellar. Erik and Sara will also discuss packhouse equipment and flow; crop rotations; preferred crop varieties; as well as some of the strategies and equipment they use to increase harvest efficiency – such as machinery for potatoes and selected harvest methods.
When Erik and Sara moved to Decorah in 1997, they were market gardeners. After buying their 40-acre farm, they put 5 acres into annual vegetable production. Patchwork Green Farm’s fields are surrounded by restored prairie and oak woods, and the farm borders the heirloom production gardens of Seed Savers Exchange.
Directions from U.S. 52 in Decorah: Turn east onto Meadowlark Road. Go 0.75 mile and turn left (north) on Middle Hesper Road. In 0.75 mile, take the right fork to stay on Middle Hesper Road. The farm is on the left (northwest) side of the road, about 1 mile after the fork. Note: Please park along the road and walk up to the house, where we will begin the field day. If walking up the hill is a challenge, accommodations can be made – please contact Erik ahead of time or upon arrival.
Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 field day season features 25 events around Iowa. All field days occur rain or shine, and feature farmer-led discussions and farm or field tours. Details are in Practical Farmers’ “2016 Field Day Guide,” available at practicalfarmers.org, or for free in print.
Practical Farmers’ 2016 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); Iowa Cover Crop; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; ISU Extension and Outreach; ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; RIMOL Greenhouse Systems; Riverside Feeds, LLC; Soil First; The Yield Lab; Trees Forever; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Welter Seed & Honey Co.; and Willcross Soybeans.
Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.