US (MA): Extending the growing season with right combination of conditions, plants

Despite the snow overnight, it was a balmy 75 degrees inside the giant greenhouse at Mill River Farm. For Jan Johnson, who acquired the 32-acre farm in April 2013, it’s simply another Monday in the Berkshires: There are animals to feed, eggs to gather, greens to harvest and plans to be made. “We’re still trying to find the sweet spot for our area,” said Johnson in a nod to the right combination of plants and the ideal interior conditions required to keep growing and harvesting throughout the winter months.

“The thing I was least prepared for was growing something great and then having to sell it,” said Johnson of produce grown on her USDA certified organic farm on the sunny slope of Brewer Hill. This is her third year growing in the winter season.

“We felt like geniuses,” recalled Johnson of her first foray with winter growing in a year that was unseasonably warm. That was 2017. She kept the thermostat in her multiple greenhouses set at 35 degrees and “it worked splendidly.” Last year, she followed the same protocol in a year that was “exceptionally cold” and did not fare as well. At Mill River Farm, Johnson has been employing Coleman’s concept of season extension, noting that a distinction can be made between extending the growing season and extending the harvest season.

Read more at The Berkshire Edge (Hannah Van Sickle)

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