The Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) recently finalized a report on a selection of infrastructure options for year round covered agriculture in Maine. The report is the culmination of a research, design and demonstration initiative that began in 2014, also know as the Sustainable Year Round Agriculture (SYRA) Cluster Initiative. The project demonstrated new technologies that show initial promise for wide adoption on commercial Maine farms and presents findings and recommendations for year round infrastructure – and areas for critical research – in climates defined by a short growing season, a long winter with snowfall and an often unpredictable “shoulder season” weather in spring and fall.
The report suggests that a commitment to priorities for low tech, renewable energy and heating systems that balance financial viability with environmental and social accountability may be the best approach for increasing the impact and full life cycle of extended season covered agriculture infrastructure, especially for Maine’s abundance of soil-based small and mid-sized family farms. Embedded in the report is a prototype Excel-based farm infrastructure project planning and budgeting tool that includes carbon fuel and energy accounting, alongside crop planning and traditional financial accounting. Other sections include discussions on mobile app and sensor networks for small farmers, a review of Maine’s aquaponic research stations, “radiant root zone” greenhouse heating, and the use of “phase change material” for extra heat capture and slow release.
MESAS will be following this report’s release with a series of fact sheets that support the effort toward expanding cost effective greenhouse systems, especially for Maine’s small and mid-sized farms. MESAS will be collaborating with University of Maine systems agriculture researchers and students who make up the next generation of Maine’s work force, to hold an open session Webinar for greenhouse growers, farm businesses and food system innovators who are considering expanding into covered growing, season extension or climate controlled production. In addition to discussing the report’s findings and upcoming fact sheets, the webinar will welcome feedback from Maine’s greenhouse growers and connect family farmers with agriculture researchers who can support their farm’s research needs for better season extension techniques and infrastructure.
A follow up newsletter will announce the webinar date and time. For more info visit www.mesas.org.
The Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society is a farmer led organization that serves the needs of its membership. Members are most often commercial farmers who seek to increase sustainable practices on their farms but also includes researchers and non-farmers who provide farm services and/or who demonstrate a commitment to Maine food and fiber producers. For questions or to become a member contact: firstname.lastname@example.org