Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

In Maine, the Growing Season Just Keeps On Growing

Partly out of a rising demand for local produce, and partly because of the innovative farming methods pioneered by Eliot Coleman (The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses, The Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long), the growing season in Maine and other northern states has extended past the first frost.

More and more farmers are using unheated or minimally heated hoophouses and greenhouses to take advantage of the plentiful sunlight on the 44th parallel, building on their existing infrastructure and shifting their harvests to hardier winter varieties. Nowadays, winter gardening is not only possible but profitable.

From the Portland Press Herald:

The vegetable-growing season used to end with the first hard frost in Maine.

Not anymore.

An increasing number of farmers are pushing the growing season into the winter to take advantage of the surging demand for locally grown food. As a result, more farmers are operating greenhouses, branching out into cool-weather crops and creating new markets for their produce.

“Basically, people have gotten into it because their infrastructure is already there,” said Mark Hutton, vegetable specialist and assistant professor of vegetable crops with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Winter farming was pioneered in the 1990s by organic farmer and writer Eliot Coleman and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, at their Four Season Farm in Harborside. The two took a trip to Europe in 1996, following the 44th parallel through France and Italy – the same latitude as Maine – when the idea of winter farming hit Coleman.

“The whole time, we had seen gardens in January with Brussels sprouts and leeks, and the minute we got above the snow line there was nothing,” said Coleman.

Coleman said he realized there was plenty of sunlight in Maine during the winter to grow vegetables – he just had to modify the temperature. So he came up with the idea of layered greenhouse structures that require minimal or no heating.

While there are no recent statistics on how many Maine farmers are venturing into winter gardening, agricultural experts say the number of new winter farmers markets and winter community-supported agricultural ventures reflects the increase.

There are about 18 community-supported agricultural operations selling winter shares of organic crops raised on Maine farms, according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. The organization has seen its list of winter farmers markets more than double in the past year to more than a dozen across the state.

Read the whole article here.


Related Articles:

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until next Spring. With author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors, you can grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s new book, Year-Round Indoor Salad […] Read More..

A Day in the Life of a Homesteader

As Homesteading Month comes to a close, we take a look at what it means to live the homesteading life every day. Read through the question and answer below and be sure to check out any of the previous articles you might have missed:Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders Homesteading Q&A: Solutions […] Read More..

Go Lean: How To Eliminate Waste and Increase Efficiency on the Farm

Using the words “factory” and “farm” in the same sentence may seem sacrilegious, but today’s young farmers like author Ben Hartman are discovering that the same sound business practices apply whether you produce cars or carrots.In his new book The Lean Farm, Hartman demonstrates how applying lean principles—originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry—to farming practices […] Read More..

Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders

More and more often, young people are turning away from cities and urban life in order to live off the land and even start farms of their own. But while many have the desire to grow food for themselves and/or others, acquiring land, and the financial burden that comes with it, presents a difficult challenge […] Read More..

How to Distinguish Permaculture from Natural Farming

Just what are the differences between permaculture and natural farming? How are they connected, and where do they diverge in philosophy and principle?Those questions are answered in the following excerpt that is adapted from the newly released One-Straw Revolutionary, a book that delves into the philosophy and work of Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka […] Read More..