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US (VA): Organic farm uses cooling system to improve handling

Produce growers are seeing the value of installing a new type of cooling to properly refrigerate their fresh fruits and vegetables.

Old Dominion Organic Farms in Dundas, VA, has been using a Jet-Ready precooler, manufactured by Global Cooling, to properly cool its fresh produce. Jordan Brandon, owner, says his company’s use of the cooler has helped improve his product offerings.

Old Dominion, which is a little more than an hour’s drive south of Richmond, VA, grows organic green beans, a variety of tomatoes, bell peppers, fall squash, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, pumpkins and cabbage.

With the forced-air cooler, Old Dominion can easily cool 10 pallets of cabbage to temperature in about an hour and a half. “Our buyers have definitely been able to see a difference in our product,” says Brandon.

As a 12th generation farmer, Brandon can trace his family's farming history to the 1600s. In the 1930s, the Brandon Farm supplied the White House with turkeys and jam. Today, the family’s home place proudly displays letters from Mrs. Roosevelt.

Brandon’s father and grandfather focused their farming efforts on tobacco and a handful of crops grown for animal feed. After taking over the family business 10 years ago, the younger Brandon continued his family's craft and three years ago pivoted into fresh produce.

“I was looking to diversify and ensure that our farm was sustainable,” explains Brandon. “While moving into new ventures, I wanted to use the infrastructure that was already in place from tobacco farming. With the changes in the market, organic produce proved to be a good fit.”

Of Old Dominion’s 2,000 acres of farmland, about 200 are used for produce. Most of the produce is shipped to Wegman's Food Markets, and two nearby wholesalers.

Brandon wanted to ensure that his facilities could not only house all the produce, but properly cool it as well. He began to research the best ways to keep the produce cool as it came in from the field and waited to go to market.

Brandon first looked into hydrocoolers, but found they weren’t the right fit for a variety of reasons. That's when he began researching forced-air cooling.

“It seemed like the reasonable answer even though a lot of people were trying to talk me out of it,” says Brandon. “They said that it wouldn't work, that you couldn't cool produce that quickly with just air.”

During his search, Brandon discovered Global Cooling. The Philadelphia-based forced-air cooling specialists convinced him to try their portable Jet-Ready Precooler.
“Cooling something is thermodynamics,” says Brandon. “We just needed to move a bunch of air, and Global Cooling has the product to do that.”

Built with two, 10-horsepower motors supplying power to two specially-designed fans, the forced-air cooling tunnel moves twice as much air as the standard farm-built unit. As it's portable, the unit can be conveniently placed in existing cold storage rooms.

“I'm so glad Jordan reached out and put his faith in us,” said Jim Still, Global Cooling's president and founder. “I knew our Jet Precooler was the perfect fit for his work.”

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