The seed of an idea for the Cherry Valley Produce LLC greenhouse, which is operated south of Miller by Randy and Penny John and their daughter and son-in-law, Kerry and Brock Elsen, was planted during a field trip for Buffalo County 4-H members.
Kerry Elsen, who is a Buffalo County Extension educator, said she organized a Nebraska Panhandle tour for the BRAG — Big Red Ag Growers — group several years ago.
As she looked for tour stops showing agriculture production different from what’s found in south-central Nebraska, a friend suggested a stop at Russ Finch’s self-designed and self-built geothermal greenhouse near Alliance.
“The more she (the friend) talked about it, the more I thought, ‘I want to see that,’” Elsen said.
In a Nebraska Farm Bureau publication, Vice President of Communication Strategy Tina Henderson wrote last fall that Finch, then 87, has grown citrus and other tropical plants in his 78-foot-long Greenhouse in the Snow for more than 25 years.
Finch told Henderson that most 12-month greenhouses in Nebraska fail because of high winter heating costs, but the cost to run one of his basic geothermal greenhouses is approximately 85 cents a day. Newer, longer models average 96 cents per day.
In 1979, Finch decided to build a new A-frame house using geothermal heat, which led him to incorporate the same natural heating system into a greenhouse on the back of his home.
He has sold kits with his patented greenhouse design to more than 60 customers, including one in northern England, several in Canada and 20 in Nebraska, the Farm Bureau story reports.
A Greenhouse in the Snow kit includes the mental frame manufactured at the Antioch Machine Shop in Alliance and Lexan polycarbonate glazing material costing $146 per lineal foot.
Finch said all other necessary materials are available at lumberyards and builders supply retailers, and two people with a backhoe and skid loader can put up a greenhouse in 10 days.
Source: Star Herald