What Every Farmer Needs to Know About Storage!

Oh so pretty Jerusalem Artichokes


Be honest: did you choose to read this blog post because of it’s amazing (?!) title?

It’s not really like my usually blog post titles because I usually think them up myself (however random or cheesy they may be). This blog post title however was generated by a tool called the Blog Topic Generator, which I learned about via facebook. When I read the titles it generated for me, I didn’t really think they were going to work for our farm blog but whatever…I used one.

So, I don’t actually know what every farmer needs to know about storage. But I’d like to. We’ve been thinking a lot about storage lately at the farm. Especially winter storage of vegetables. Why? Because the walk-in cooler that works just fine for the majority of the season (when we’re filling and emptying it every week) is not even close to being sufficient for storing enough vegetables to sell through the winter and into the spring. It’s way too small for that.

What we really want/need is a root cellar. And being the young idealists we are, we want a very cool one that combines the traditional root cellar with newer technologies. We want our root cellar to be capable of functioning well with and without the use of electricity. Because we’re hoping to still have a long life ahead of us and that life just might not have all of the comforts and conveniences of the life we lead now. So we always plan for a possible life without electricity (and considering the winter we’re having….it seems that the possibility is a reality for many).  It’s one of our Risk Management Strategies.

So, what are our biggest barriers to making this dreamy old/new hybrid root cellar? Well, money of course is always a factor but the real one is this: we don’t know what to build.

There is so much information out there. And yes, I’ve read the awesome Root Cellaring book and seen many root cellar designs and storage facilities in person. But what is best for OUR farm, OUR goals, and OUR resources (including financial ones)?

Well, I don’t have the answers and I would love some advice. So, if you have some, please share a comment.

And of course we’re very excited for the upcoming (and very timely) crop storage workshop being held in different locations across the Maritimes at the end of February. Chris Callahan is being brought up from the U.S. of A. by ACORN to discuss crop storage (You can read more about him here).  And here is where you can sign up for the workshop. We’ll be attending the Dieppe one and there’ll be ones happening in Truro, Wolfville, Fredericton, and Charlottetown.

And being the geek that I am, I’ve been researching more about storage overall so that when the time comes, I will have a better sense of what in the heck Chris is talking about and what I want to ask in particular. There are lots of great resources on the UVM Extension AgEngineering Blog that Chris maintains.

Well, I hope you’re not too disappointed by this post after the “amazing” title really hyped it up. Maybe in 20 years I can actually write the content of a blog post with this title. But don’t get your hopes up.

Storing your Veggies for Winter

Confection Squash

So, now is the time to start hoarding (storing) food for the winter. Many people aren’t exactly sure how to do this (since it is a skill that grocery stores have not required us to continue). But we think it’ still an important skill to practice, so for those of you who are willing and interested, here are some tips for storing produce in a typical home.

Identify the areas of your house that do not freeze and may be suitable for storing vegetables. The following can be helpful:

Description of AreaTemperatureWhat to Store there
Refrigerator4C (40F)Carrots, Beets, Kale, Turnip, Rutabaga, Cabbage, Jerusalem Artichokes, Winter Radish (Watermelon or Daikon)
Unheated entrance, attic or spare room4-10C (40-50F)Squash, Onions, Garlic
Cellar, cool damp1-10C (33-50F)Potatoes, Sweet potatoes

When storing vegetables in the fridge, put in a plastic bag and remove as much air as possible before storing.

If you are using an unheated entrance, attic or unheated spare room, make sure the area does not freeze, and has an area that is dark. Onions and garlic will start to sprout when exposed to sunlight. When storing winter squash, it is best that they are not touching and have good airflow to prevent rot. If the stems are broken off, use these first as they tend not to store as well.

In a cellar, some ventilation is helpful. Potatoes also need to be kept in a dark location to keep them from sprouting.

Keep checking on your stored vegetables, removing any that look soft or have signs of rotting.

Happy Storing!