Wisconsin farm grows produce even in the winter
BRISTOL, WI (AP) — A 16-mph wind whips around, rattling the plastic and metal hoops of a structure at Living Hope Farm LLC, located just north of the Des Plaines River.
Outside, the wind chill is 6 degrees, and 5 inches of snow cover the ground.
Inside, however, are rows of radishes, carrots, cilantro, arugula, kale and other vegetables thrive in this oasis in the dead of winter.
Benches hold several large trays of microgreens — the sprouts of flowers, herbs or greens — that are very nutritious. And freshly harvested wheatgrass is ready to be converted into juice and sold at farmers markets.
While other farmers wait out the winter, Bert Jones, the manager of the farm, is growing and harvesting despite the weather.
To do it, Jones cranks up the heat during the day — sometimes getting into the 90s on sunny days — so that the hoop house can hold onto enough heat through the long, cold nights.
"You have to have heat when you're talking about growing in this kind of weather. I'd rather let it get to 90 (during the day) because at night we're trying to run two heaters wide open and trying to keep it in the mid-60s," Jones told the Kenosha News. "It's full in here right now because we try to use every inch (for growing)."
Radishes, chards, kale and romaine, are ideal crops to grow in cold weather, he said.
"We have carrots coming up," he said. "There's some heirloom arugula, which we just cut real hard this morning."
Ideally, he tries to plant in stages. Arugula, the spicy serrated green herb used in salads, is usually sowed every two weeks.
"To me, the best way to use arugula is I put it on salami sandwiches because of the pepperiness. Arugula cuts the fat of the salami so well on a really good pumpernickel bread," he said. "One of the guys who helps me here, we'll bag it and he'll just open the bag and just eat it."
The farm grows heirloom varieties of vegetables using organic methods and non-GMO seeds, Jones said. Most of the seeds he sows are organic and come from several seed companies. In about a year, he said, the farm expects to have organic certification.
For home gardeners trying to grow greens indoors until spring, he suggests starting microgreens or lettuces and argula.
"And cut them when they're still in the baby stages, because that's when they're the most flavorful," he said.
Living Hope Farm LLC, owned by Tina and Dennis McCreary, has been farmed and managed by Jones for the last two years.
During the normal growing season, he's working on 115 acres of land that includes honeybee hives, free-range chickens, an orchard and a vineyard.
About a quarter of the farm is used for community-supported agriculture, in which shares of the seasonal bounty are purchased by the public on weekly basis. Sale of the shares of "winter" CSAs start on Feb. 10.
Living Hope also sells at farmers markets, mostly in Illinois, but Jones can also be found at Kenosha's indoor HarborMarket on Saturdays at the Rhode Center for the Arts.