“I love your contributions to the new electronic
version of "New Farm." Your recent article on what
to grow mentions:
‘Salad mixes, spinach and other
greens are washed, spun dry and bagged, usually in half-pound
units. Everything goes right into the walk-in cooler, which
is set at 40°F. (Think you can't afford a cooler or
a decent, high-capacity salad spinner? Think again. More
on that in a future column on essential equipment.)’
I am in the process of purchasing some kind of refrigeration
equipment for my soon-to-be harvested greenhouse crops of
mesclun and lettuce. I have purchased a 5-gallon salad spinner
similar to the one I see you holding in the picture for your
article. Can you please e-mail advice on purchasing a used
refrigerator or cooler?”
Over Fork Over Farm
Primm Springs, TN
You made our day! So glad
you like our stuff on NewFarm.org. Here are a few ideas in
answer to your questions:
Gotta have it for what you and we are growing.
In the beginning, we had a collection of used refrigerators.
They use a lot of electric, but they're cheap (free, in some
cases). When they filled up, we piled our own refrigerator
with as much as we could.
Watch the classified ads in area newspapers. Farm papers,
too. We found our used 6- X 8-foot Bally walk-in cooler in
the Sunday paper. A refrigeration company had taken it out
of an old school. It came delivered and installed with a new
compressor with a 5-year guarantee at a price we couldn’t
Auctions, especially going-out-of-business sales of restaurants
and restaurant supply houses, are another good place to pick
up reasonably priced used equipment. Watch the auction notices.
Call refrigeration and restaurant supply companies and let
them know you're looking. We picked up stainless steel work
tables and a 24- X 24- 14-inch stainless double sink when
Walnut Acres, America’s original organic farm, ceased
operations at Penns Creek, PA, and was sold at auction two
If you're handy, you can build your own cooler with an old
air-conditioner. Growing For Market newsletter published plans
a few years ago. Might check their website: www.growingformarket.com.
If you don't already subscribe to the newsletter, it's well
worth the money.
Instead of using an old AC unit, you can build your own insulated
box and pick up a used compressor and evaporator here and
there. Case in point is our old Bally. We had a fire in our
garage in January. Damaged the cooler box so badly that it
makes more sense to buy a new (larger) box. We're upgrading
to a 1-hp compressor to make sure we can keep the larger box
cool enough, even though it will leave us strapped for a time.
So we have a matched 3/4-hp compressor and evaporator, plus
the old box, that we're trying to figure out what to do with.
“Advertise 'em on eBay,” says the refrigeration
guy. Good idea. Look for used equipment on eBay. (David also
mentioned closings of K-Marts and Wal-Marts and says auctions
are being handled by the SB Capitol Group: www.esbcg.com/equipment/index.cfm
Another refrigeration resource: www.barrinc.com.
Barr Inc. sells -- and buys -- new and reconditioned refrigeration
equipment, coolers, freezers, chillers and refrigeration systems.
Located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, they advertise in Growing for
Market newsletter, so they would seem to be open to dealing
with a New Farm crowd.
Hand-cranked 5-gallon spinner works really well. We have (had
-- heavy smoke got them, too) two of them, plus a spare basket.
The spare basket really speeds up the production line and
cuts down on cranking, as lettuce/mix can drain a lot while
we're spinning the first basket.
We bought our spinners through Johnny's, then later found
the same thing for maybe $40 less at a nearby restaurant supply
Hand-cranking can be tough on aging shoulders, though. Melanie
just had shoulder surgery. Torn tendon and messed up rotator
cuff. She blames the salad spinner, in part. I blame big dogs
tugging at the end of the leash more than anything. (Never
mind the dog bite, eight stitches, frozen pipe, septic backup
and other craziness this winter. We’re ready for spring!)
We're looking at a 20-gallon Dito Dean VP1 stainless steel
motorized spinner. Check it out on the web at www.selectappliance.com.
Runs about $1,500. Yikes! (Plastic version is available for
couple hundred bucks less.) We figure what it saves in time
and wear and tear on the farmers will boost production and
sales enough to more than pay for it before long.
Lots of people we know around the country use old washing
machines for the same purpose -- with good results. Like so
many other things, which way you go is entirely up to you,
depending on your personal tastes, finances, customers, cash
flow, schedule, and so on.
Appearances have become important in our operation, since
it is in our home and most of our customers come out to the
farm to buy their veggies. If they didn't, we’d probably
be retrofitting an old washing machine right now. Just something
not terribly appetizing about pulling your dinner salad out
of someone's rusty old Maytag or Kenmore.
You don’t need anything terribly fancy, especially in
the beginning. Witness the old side-by-side wash tub pictured
in the January
17 column. We got them for free from the basement of a
row home in Allentown, Pa., while helping a friend move. The
bread trays (full of sleeved Romaine head lettuce) were given
to us by another friend, who got them free from a supermarket.
George built the picnic table about 20 years ago. Please note
that while we recycle, we are extremely conscious of proper
sanitation. We constantly wash and disinfect everything, including
field knives and harvest containers. We have our well water
tested for nitrates and coliform at least once a year, as
a regular part of organic certification.
Keep in mind that one of these days the feds will likely
crack down on backyard greens operations, so the more sanitary
and professional you can make it the better. Making salad
mix is now borderline “food processing,” in the
eyes of various authorities around the country.
Already, in places like California, you have to wear surgical
gloves while handling salad mix. Wash water has to be tested
regularly. “In 10 years, you’ll probably have
to wear a space suit when making this stuff,” a California
grower we know said recently. To head off potential legal
problems, know the law ahead of time. Check with your Extension
office, Health Department and other local or county officials
get into all that and more in a future column . . .