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Growing Green in the Dead of Winter

January 2, 2013

Stuart Maxwell explains the need for diversification on Vermont farms. Photo: Ken Wells

COVENTRY – With the price of milk down and plenty of space to work with, the Maxwell Family Farm in Coventry has diversified. They have built a 70-foot by 30-foot greenhouse.
The structure has been up since August and the results have been good.
Stuart Maxwell explains, "We heat the greenhouse with our digester building's heating system. We have radiant heat in the ground and heaters powered by the digester. We had the space and heat so we decided to do something with it. Milk prices are low so we needed to diversify."
This time of year, the Maxwells are growing lettuce and greens.
"In the spring, it will mostly be tomatoes," Stuart said.
You could grow almost anything there but they already have a market for the vegetables they grow there now and will grow in the spring.
Maxwell continued, "We have the Belvedere Restaurant and Parker Pie as customers now and I think one of the local schools will be a customer as well."
The family brought in a contractor who showed them the basics of the greenhouse's construction. The Maxwell family took it from there and built it themselves. The temperature will range from 45 degrees to over a 100 in the summertime. The day I was there, it was a very comfortable 63 degrees while it was 20 outside.
As the American farmer battles changing milk prices, a little diversity can go along way. The farm constructed a digester system to harness methane gas a few years back and now the greenhouse will provide alternative income.

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