Deep Winter Farming
As WEI enters 2016, we will be initiating more intensive deep winter farm production on the WEI Farm Campus. We will utilize our Aquaponic hoop houses and begin building a new Deep Winter Greenhouse which will maximize passive solar energy and stores this energy in an underground thermal mass. This will be the first year of WEI’s four-season production which will close the gap that winter has forced upon Minnesota and hence our dependence on out-sourcing our vital food needs to sources thousands of miles away from Minnesota.
We anticipate growing cold hardy crops, such as greens, herbs, broccoli, broccoli raab, kale, collards, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and pea shoots. In 2015 we successfully grew yellow perch through the winter in our Aquaponic hoop house and will expand this in the winter of 2016. Aquaponic farming combines growing fish and greens in a closed eco-system where fish and friendly bacteria provide the nitrogen sources for our plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Currently we are looking at solar options for the electricity needed to keep our four-season aquaponic hoop houses in operation.
We are deeply indebted to the guidance and training provided by Will Allen and Growing Power Inc. who taught us how to build aquaponic units and sustain our fish through the winter. We are also indebted to the work of Carol Ford and Chuck Waibel, authors of Northlands Winter Greenhouse Manual and the work that Carol has established in organizing Minnesota’s first Deep Winter Farmer Network along with her highly successful deep winter CSA at Garden Goddess Enterprises in Milan, Minnesota.
As Carol explains, “There is a passion that brings all of us to this task. We have much to learn from each other and that enriches the journey considerably. The common ground is that our commitment to nurture a healthy community is equaled by our desire to grow nutritious, delicious, affordable food.”
Watch for classes and trainings on Deep Winter Farming on WEI’s education calendar.