In general, a warm climate works best for farming the majority of crop species. Thus, farms in warm climates are often the most profitable. Nevertheless, farming in cold climates can still be a lucrative business, but there are certain differences between the two types of farming.
Maximizing profitability is a common challenge for many cold-climate farmers, especially for small-scale operators. As a result, the immediate community has to rely mostly on goods from warmer parts of the country for fresh produce. To achieve both profitability and a reduction in obtaining produce from other places, here are several strategies that cold climate farmers can apply.
Build a deep winter greenhouse
In cold climates, the temperature fluctuations and minimal frost-free days often make it impossible to grow crops, much less sustain the local agricultural sector. For these reasons, farmers in these areas make use of greenhouses for cold climates, which are especially designed to sustain an environment conducive to plant growth despite the cold or even freezing temperatures outside.
However, not all cold climate greenhouses are made equal. To promote a conducive environment, traditional cold climate greenhouses tend to consume a lot of energy. Thus, the energy costs can offset the profit that cold climate farmers can make.
Deep winter greenhouses (DWGs) aim to address this issue. A DWG uses a passive solar system that absorbs heat from the sun and the storage capacity of the earth to keep the greenhouse running even in the freezing winter months. As a result, not only do farmers get to grow crops in a perfectly controlled environment, but they are also maximizing their profits by making use of this eco-friendly and economical greenhouse.
Plant specialty crops
Specialty crops can supplement the lack of fresh, domestic produce in local communities as well as contribute to the export market. These specialty crops can grow in cold climates with little to no season extension tools. Furthermore, growing these specialty crops can help farmers establish a unique market and increase their profit margins. Farmers can even supply products to specialty restaurants that are often looking for unique ingredients to add to their menu.
Here are some categories of specialty crops that cold climate farmers can consider:
Most ethnic vegetables grow best in warm climates, but there is a handful of crops, such as Italian vegetables and Asian greens, that flourish in cold climates without the need for season extension tools.
If you look at any upscale or specialty restaurant today, they will probably have a baby vegetable variant in one of their dishes. Thus, these can be very high-value crops for cold climate farmers and may be what they need to create supplier relationships with upscale restaurants.
Examples of popular baby vegetables include baby beets, baby lettuce, and baby tomatoes, all of which are significantly smaller than their regular counterparts.
Many fruit species thrive in cold climates, even outside of a greenhouse. Examples of such fruits include juneberries, currant, and gooseberry. Aside from their production potential (in terms of volume), cold climate farmers can also offer these fruits as special crops and charge higher prices for them. Furthermore, some cold climate fruit species do not grow in warm climates, which opens up another opportunity for export for cold climate farmers.
Apply season extension techniques
Season extension refers to any method or technique that allows a crop to grow or be harvested beyond its normal growing or harvesting season. Many cold climate farmers use season extension to make the most out of their crop year, rotations, and investments. Fortunately, modern technology has made season extension easier and, in turn, has made cold climate farming more profitable.
Here are several season extension techniques that cold climate farms should use.
Hoop houses are greenhouse-like structures that have less control over environmental conditions but cost lower than traditional greenhouses. The typical hoop house is usually covered with plastic and uses roll-up sides for ventilation. Moreover, it does not have a heating or cooling system or a foundation, which makes it easier to install and take down. Therefore, hoop houses are not considered taxable structures.
Low tunnels are smaller versions of hoop houses. They are temporary season extenders and work best for keeping nighttime temperatures higher than ambient temperatures. Similar to hoop houses, they are cheap, easy to install and remove, and are non-taxable.
Modern technology, proper infrastructure, and planting strategies all work together to help farmers earn more profit. By understanding and knowing more about the methods they can use, farmers in cold climates can maximize their space and increase their yield, even in the coldest months of the year.