ALLEGANY, NY — Freezing temperatures may not seem like ideal weather for growing produce.
However, the Western New York winter doesn’t bother Mark Printz, manager at Canticle Farm in Allegany.
Now in its 20th year of growing, the non-profit, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm on Old State Road uses the power of daylight, as well as a few tricks, to grow produce year-round.
“The big thing about growing in the winter time is not a lack of temperature,” Printz said. “It’s a lack of daylight.”
The farm starts growing its produce in a heated greenhouse, keeping plants there for four to 10 weeks, depending on the crop.
Once a plant is ready, it is moved to a “high tunnel,” a structure erected over the soil that the plants will continue to grow in.
The secret to keeping the plants warm in the high tunnel? Row cover.
This thin fabric protects the plants at night when daylight cannot insulate the high tunnel.
Printz said that the row cover can hold up to 5 degrees of heat per layer.
“When you cover the plants, it creates a whole new microclimate,” Printz said. “There is almost a 30-degree difference between the outside temperature and the temperature of the plants under cover.”
Any time that the temperature rises above 35 degrees in any of the farm’s four high tunnels, the row cover is taken off. That way, the crops can get fresh air.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take the harshness of Mother Nature out of the equation,” Printz said. “As long as the sun comes out and it isn’t completely cloudy, we take the cover off.”
Because the produce is grown inside, the farm can limit water consumption.
“One of the main reasons we grow in the winter is because we have more demand than we do supply,” Printz said. “Also, by selling every week, we can keep our customers coming to us. They appreciate the quality.”
Printz said that the farm produces over 45 different crops; more than 30 are variations of lettuce. He added that the greens grown on the farm, including spinach, kale and cabbage, are able to take the limited sunlight of the season.
“(The crops) can come back after they freeze, but we can also lose them,” Printz said.
The farm bills itself as a "Four Season Farm" and sells its produce at its market, 3809 Old State Road, weekly on Tuesdays from 12 to 6 p.m. The market also keeps Friday business hours, 12 to 6, in addition to Tuesdays, from June until December, and the farm also participates in the seasonal Saturday REAP Olean Farmers Market.
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