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Grow Food 12 Months a Year
Securing our Food Supply
by Frances P Kostner, Ed. D.
15 percent of all fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States are
imported from outside our borders. Another huge chunk of our food supply
travels thousands of miles across our country. … Local farmers who grow only
during the traditional warm months also have a tendency to lose their market on
the back side of the growing season when relationships with customers are
severed for months at a time.
If we could find a way to produce
vegetables locally 12 months a year we have the ingredients of a change that
can make our nation move more food securely, provide more local employment, …
increase the public health, and shield food costs from rising fuel costs.
A problem with widespread adoption
of this concept is that people have an outdated notion that one cannot grow
vegetables economically year around. This is no longer true.
I asked my friend and colleague Jon
Kennedy to help me research solutions to this problem so we could prepare an
article for www.optimisticfuturist.org. We found that Eliot Coleman has been
perfecting the process of raising vegetables twelve months a year without
heated greenhouses in Maine, of all places, for several decades. Combining the
field and greenhouse crops, his gross income is $80,000 per acre per year!
to Coleman, there are several misconceptions about winter gardening. For instance, not all crops need
summer-like temperatures to thrive. While tomatoes may prefer higher heat, some
vegetables like spinach and lettuce produce exceptionally well during the
cooler seasons. Another common misunderstanding is that winter hours of
sunlight are too short to allow growth. Coleman has found that it is not the
total number of hours of daylight per day that matters as much as the total
number of hours of daylight from planting until harvest. During shorter periods
of sunlight, crops do take longer to mature from seed to harvest, but proper
planting across a wide range of dates can compensate for this extra time,
allowing 12-month harvest.
farm sticks to three main principles to guide its operating philosophy:
simplicity, low external inputs (including energy), and high quality outputs.
By making the most effective use of this operating basis, Coleman has succeeded
in creating an effective system during a season when plants are usually
dormant. The simplest technology is used to generate an effective economy of
scale that lengthens fresh vegetable crops through winter months, while
providing local 12 month employment.
main objective is to harvest at least three crops per year from every square
food of the cold houses: two harvests in the long Maine winter and at least one
in the summer. To increase the farm’s effectiveness during these unforgiving
winter months, he strives to pick vegetables that have the greatest tolerance
to cold temperatures, adheres to a strict schedule for planting and harvest,
and ensures that his vegetables are under constant cover when the cold weather
dictates. …Surprisingly, the vast
majority of the vegetables Coleman produces during the winter are grown in the
cold houses that use no supplemental heat.
findings have been documented in the books [Coleman] authored, which include The New Organic Grower, Four Seasons Harvest,
and The Winter Harvest Handbook.
About the author:
Fran Koster, Ed.D. is a Rotarian. He is the author of
several books, including Discovering the
New America (2013), from which this excerpt is taken.
Francis Koster received his
Doctorate from The Program
the Study of the Future
at the University of Massachusetts, where he studied the implications of
likely global future trends and their impact on the public
policy of the "life support systems" of Air,
Water, Food, and Energy,
the interplay between them, and their impact on public health of The United
He has been
an award winning innovator
in Education, Energy, and Healthcare, serving at various times as student and staff at an experiment college, administrator of the nation's
largest renewable energy
program, and Vice President for Innovation for the nation's largest pediatric sub-specialty health
Post "retirement," Dr. Koster maintains a consulting
practice. His clients
include the Duke University Graduate School of Nursing
where he helped
new curricula in the areas of
leadership and project
management, and the Catawba
College Center for the Environment, among other clients. He is
a frequent speaker to groups of adult leaders on matters
policy, sustainability, and life support
Dr. Koster is married
to Dr. Carol Spalding, President of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North
to his consulting practice and newspaper writing, Dr. Koster runs a website
which collects and displays
proven solutions to known problems facing America.
Dr. Koster has served in the United States Army National
Guard, and as a Peace
Corps Volunteer in Africa.
expressed by the authors of each
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