Greenhouse Production Ramps Up

Swiss chard, beets and winter squash have been added to this year's mix

Greenhouse Production Ramps Up

 

Production staff plant a variety of greens inside a hoop house.

Beds of emerald-colored kale and collard greens planted outside shimmer under a late morning sun. Nearby, production staff plant trays of spinach inside hoop houses. It is early autumn at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub and greenhouse production is ramping up. 

At the Farm Hub, greenhouses and hoop houses serve as home base for year-round vegetable growing.  In 2018 the Farm Hub started growing greens in the winter to step up its donations to food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens throughout Ulster County, and also to provide off-season work for our production staff. For the second year in a row, the Farm Hub is partnering with the Kingston YMCA Farm Project on the winter market, which is taking place on Thursdays from November 7 through February at the YMCA. This winter’s leafy greens offerings include spinach, kale (curly, dinosaur and Red Russian), collard greens, and the addition of Swiss chard. 

Swiss chard is a new addition to year-round production.

In September, the production team started seeding a variety of baby greens, salad mixes, and herbs in the greenhouses, including arugula, cilantro, parsley, and pea shoots, for the winter market. The seedings and harvests will continue throughout the winter with the salad mixes packed into half-pound bags.

Produce sold at the winter market will also feature organically grown carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, winter squash, garlic, spinach, cooking greens, baby herbs, salad mixes, parsnips, and more. A portion of the market’s sales support the YMCA Farm Project’s programming. 

Greenhouses serve as a base for growing and harvesting mixed greens and herbs.

Jeff Scott, marketing and logistics coordinator, expects the market to attract many community members who are keen on being able to access fresh vegetables throughout the peak winter months. Last year’s market served over 650 customers and nearly 950 pounds of produce was sold, with spinach, kale and mixed salad proving the most popular. 

 

Squash and beets

The tradition of storing sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, potatoes, and parsnips during the winter holds; however, the selection will be expanded to include winter squash such as butternut squash and Black Futsu, and two varieties of beets: Red Ace and Touchstone Gold.  

“The root crops give us more of a winter offering and they are critical for our work plan,” says Jeff Arnold vegetable production manager.

Touchstone Gold is one of two varieties of beets grown at the Farm Hub.

Rosa Villegas, greenhouse assistant, says she is looking forward to the winter growing season and likes the weekly cycle of seeding and harvesting microgreens, and the chance to farm indoors during the coldest months. She has also learned a lot about winter farming such as how to build raised beds for the vegetables.

Finally, year-round production supports additional initiatives such as employment for Kingston youth and the availability of fresh produce during the height of winter. 

KayCee Wimbish, project director and farmer at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, says she is thrilled about the extended varieties of vegetables at the winter market, and looks forward to employing members of the youth farm crew through the winter.

“The winter market is important to the community because it allows us to offer affordably priced local produce into the winter months,” says Wimbish. “People’s need for fresh food doesn’t stop once the weather gets cold.”

–Amy Wu 

 

Innovation in new greenhouses

A propagation house and a grow house are expected to start operating in the spring.

The Farm Hub is adding two new greenhouses; a propagation house and a grow house, both of which are expected to be operational in the spring of 2020. These will eventually replace the existing aging greenhouses. A climate-controlled potting shed that will house seeding equipment is also part of the construction.

“We need more growing space for our winter production and we wanted something a little more state of the art,” says Jeff Arnold, vegetable production manager.

The fresh greens grown indoors at the Farm Hub are primarily donated to community food shelters and sold at the Kingston YMCA winter market. Expanded production will open up additional opportunities to address food insecurity in the region year-round. The greenhouses are also used for seeding vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower before they are transplanted into the fields. 

The new greenhouses will feature the latest technologies in indoor agriculture designed for a smoother workflow and increased production. 

The propagation house will have a radiant heating system and smart climate controls that allow temperatures and vents to be adjusted by smartphone. The grow house, which features a soil floor where crops can be grown in the ground, can also be climate controlled via smartphone. With a swipe and click, growers can monitor everything from temperature, moisture, and humidity from their phones or laptops.

Other helpful features include a rolling benchtop system to maximize the available growing space, a watering boom that cuts down on the need for hand watering, and hose trolleys that will run the length of the greenhouse.

“These houses will open a lot of doors for the vegetable operation all year long, but I am really excited about the possibilities for winter growing. We are tripling our space and can produce a lot of crops in the winter that our current infrastructure just won’t allow for,” he says. 

Rosa Villegas, the greenhouse assistant, says the new technology – such as the rolling benchtop system and temperature controls – will mean growing a greater variety of vegetables. “I can’t wait to start in the new greenhouses,” Villegas says.

To learn more about Rosa Villegas click on her video portrait at https://vimeo.com/358293171