As many of our Spring Share members my have noticed, we now have a cooler by the farm stand. This cooler serves many purposes and was fairly straightforward to build (especially since we have built a few coolers now).
We bought a lightly used, enclosed landscape trailer and added 4 inches of insulation to the walls and ceiling, and two inches to the floor.
We also cut a hole in the front to insert an air conditioner. We use a tool called the CoolBot, invented by a farmer in Upstate NY and his engineer friend, to essentially utilize the AC to achieve lower, sustained temps than wouldn’t be possible with just the AC (and for a lot less $ than a commercial unit). It works great. We have the same set up in our stationary, 8×10 cooler we built last year.
So why on wheels? Lots of reasons, but primarily to pick up produce less:
- Our wash station is rather far from our distribution area. Instead of taking everything off the harvest truck, washing it, putting it in the cooler, taking it out of the cooler, putting it back on the truck, driving it down to the CSA wagon, taking it off the truck . . . . we now just take it off the harvest truck, wash it, load it into the mobile cooler and drive it down and leave it there for when we need to re-stock.
- We go to the Ashland Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and we have to pick everything on Friday. Which means it has to go into the cooler over night. We used to have to put it into the cooler then get to the farm with enough time to take it out of the cooler and put it on the truck. Now we can load it straight into the mobile cooler on Friday and just drive it to market Saturday morning!
- We like to keep our produce fresh. Down by the farm stand it was hard to keep produce looking its best if it was especially hot or windy. Now it can just chill out until it’s ready to be used!
- We need extra storage space for our Winter Share. It would be hard to keep produce from freezing in this cooler if temps got really low (but we could figure it out). So, we will basically use it to store the December CSA share then turn it off until next May. The January and February produce will go into our stationary cooler which is undercover, has better insulation on the floor and also has a small heater on a thermostat (which worked really well last winter!)
Our time and the time of our crew are the most valuable assets of this business. Although I love to carry heavy things around, I’m not adding any value to the customer, or increasing our profit. We will spend roughly 4-6 less hours each week carrying produce around. That’s a lot more time we can be planting, weeding, cultivating, mowing, and even doing things like building other new, cool tools to help us in the future.
Special thanks to Erin and Kevin for doing almost all of the work on this (I got to do the fun work like sending invoices and updating the website . . . )