Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Midwestern Farmers rely on Eliot Coleman’s Advice for Cold-Weather Farming

Did you know that the city of Portland, Maine, gets just as much sunlight as the Mediterranean coast of France? That means that, once you’ve taken care of the coldness problem, it should be possible to raise and harvest the same crops as those lucky Europeans. Eliot Coleman, the guru of the four-season harvest, can teach you how.

From The Ethicurean:

As winter approaches, even the most knowledgeable of local-foods-loving shoppers have wondered what fresh produce they will find over the winter months, and the opening of a year-round market here in Wooster has only increased the frequency of that musing. Happily, I can point to a handful of our producer members who are likely to have greens and other vegetables coming from their high tunnels or hoop houses, taking a page from Eliot Coleman, the all-season farmer from Maine and author of the new book “The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses.”

Coleman has established himself in recent years as an innovative organic farmer working in challenging conditions and finding ingenious solutions. His key suggestion for growing fresh crops throughout even the harsh Maine winters involves the use of unheated greenhouses paired with floating row covers to increase the temperature around tender crops. This system has evolved to include movable cold houses that can be shifted from summer hot house crops such as tomatoes over to summer-started winter crops of greens and roots. By getting a jump start while the days are long enough to promote growth, the plants reach near-maturity before the days shorten significantly, and they can then be picked in succession throughout the winter months.

“In other words,” Coleman explains, “we were not extending the growing season as one hopes to do in a heated greenhouse but, rather, we were extending the harvest season.”

Over the past few decades, he has tried other solutions, such as brief minimal heating in the greenhouses and a wider variety of crops, and “The Winter Harvest Handbook” brings his previous books (especially “Four-Season Harvest”) up to date. Through all the testing and use of different methods, he has kept the goals of simplicity, low cost, and energy efficiency in mind. The farm’s processes have also been organized carefully: “We aim for a goal of never leaving a greenhouse bed unplanted, and we come pretty close.”

Coleman makes a solid case that all of this experimentation has proven worthwhile, and “The Winter Harvest Handbook” offers extensive details for everything from preparing the beds to maintaining and harvesting the crops. The methods outlined can be translated elsewhere to continue to provide healthful fresh food throughout the year as well as to increase the profits of “dedicated local grower[s]… selling a premium product.”

Read the whole article here.


Related Articles:

We are Farmily: Everyday Life on Sole Food Street Farm

Food is the medium. The message is nourishment in its most elemental and spiritual form.That’s how author Michael Ableman sees the role of Sole Food Street Farm and the food it sells to markets, restaurants, and individuals.In the following excerpt from his new book, Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier, […] Read More

Who Produces More Eggs: Ducks or Chickens?

During our monthlong focus on homesteading in September, we received a number of great questions with several of them centered on … ducks and chickens.Here is one such question that came in via Facebook:“I have read that ducks produce more eggs over a longer lifetime of productivity than chickens, but recently talked with a farmer […] Read More

From Farm-to-Table to Farm-to-Everything

No longer restricted to the elite segments of society, the farm-to-table movement now reaches a wide spectrum of Americans from hospital and office cafeterias to elementary schools and fast-casual restaurants.Nearly a century ago, the idea of “local food” would have seemed perplexing, since virtually all food was local. Today, most of the food consumed in […] Read More

The Three Cs of Farm-to-School

Most people know about the three “R’s” – reading, writing, and arithmetic. But, have you heard about the three “C’s”?If you, or your kid, is at a school that takes part in the Farm-to-School movement, then you may already know about them.October is National Farm-to-School month, and in their book Farm to Table, authors Darryl […] Read More

Homesteading: Highlighting Our Need For Each Other

Homesteading isn’t meant to be a solitary adventure, or done in isolation.Building and living on the independent farmstead takes at least one partner, if not several. That’s the advice of authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty. In their book The Independent Farmstead, The Sow’s Ear model for regenerating the land and growing food covers everything from […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By