Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture
Huguenot Street Farm has been a hotbed of agricultural innovation and we are committed to maintaining that tradition. In 2012, we created Huguenot Farm Capital to invest in innovation on other farms because there are lots of other great farmers out there who can't get access to capital. So far we have provided loans, investments or grants to three very different, exciting projects:
Common Thread Community Farm (Madison, NY) the first independent farm project for local farming gurus Asher and Wendy Burkhart-Spiegel, the long-time managers of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project.
Phillies Bridge Farm Project (New Paltz, NY), a New Paltz non-profit farming institution trying to make a fresh start after a difficult few years. Technically, Phillies Bridge is a "competitor" to our CSA but we are big believers in pathological collaboration when it comes to sustainable businesses.
Maya Papaya Organic Farm (Oviedo, FL), an amazingly ambitious small farm with plans to expand to aquaculture and eco-tourism.
Cool projects developed here on the farm include:
Cheap Heat for Your Greenhouse: A home-designed/built-underbed radiant heating system for our 1500 sq. foot commercial greenouse. Our average heating costs over the last few years have been around $125/year-a savings of over $800/season compared to our friends with a the same size greenhouse. Saving the planet from more greenhouse gasses is icing on the cake because the system pays for itself early in the second year of operation.
Solar electric tractors : The USDA SARE program provided a grant, so we converted our Allis Chalmers "G" tractors from a gas powered engines into a battery powered solar charging tractors. Now, dozens have been built and are in use around the country with more coming every month! Who needs to farm with biodiesel when you can farm with the sun!
The CoolBotT is a patent pending invention that allows small farmers/wineries/even caterers and restaurants to run a commercial sized walk-in cooler (up to 160 sq. feet) on a home air-conditioner. Run your cooler down to 35 degrees with a $325 air conditioner. Better still, the gizmo lowers operating electricity costs up to 50% compared with normal walk-in cooler compressor! THOUSANDS sold around world in only a few years! Check it out at www.storeitcold.com.
The Certified Naturally Grown program was founded right here in 2002 for small farmers following USDA Organic growing practices who don't wish to be a part of the USDA NOP program. The concept grew from the Hudson Valley to be a nationwide, and then international, movement. Over 3,000 farmer applications have been processed in the United States, with about 800 currently active farmers that meet all requirements.
Hoophouse Dreams: Tested in 2004 ... Improved in 2005 ... perfected in 2006 and 2007. An undercover system of farming that small farmers can build themselves, and save money. We have thousands of feet of inexpensive home-built hoophouses growing tomatoes, peppers and eggplants!
We've had a few false starts on innovation projects in the last couple years but we are hoping to get back on track soon. Low-cost, small-scale IQF freezing, low-carbon footprint, year-round green-housing, cooperative processing and distribution are projects we are looking to get started now. Let us know if you have any good ideas!