“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
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
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
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 refuse.
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 years ago.
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
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
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
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 house.
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
You don’t need anything terribly fancy, especially in the
beginning. Witness the old side-by-side wash tub pictured in the
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
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 first.
Will get into
all that and more in a future column . . .