Off-grid Post-harvest Washing and Cold Storage
Grant Award: $3,000
Jonathan is using a simple technique call “agrovoltaic” to shade heat-sensitive crops as well as generate energy for his farm. He is installing 2kw of solar panels high enough off the ground and spaced apart from each other to shade approximately 50 percent of the grow bed underneath. In that microclimate, he is planting crops such as lettuce and leafy greens. The only electricity used at his farm is generated off-the-grid.
Jonathan is also constructing a small building to house batteries and an inverter for the solar panels, as well as a post-harvest cooler to store vegetables. The structure includes an outdoor covered area with wash sinks and drying tables, allowing him to harvest and wash his product, sort and package it, and store it in a cooler until delivery.
In the past, he had to take products off the farm to wash and sort them and then drive to another location for cold storage. The new system saves Jonathan a lot of time. He primarily sells through New River Organic Growers (NROG).
Jonathan began establishing his venture in 2010. After working in the restaurant industry for 15 years, he decided to return to his family’s land, which his great grandfather purchased in 1912.
“I have a strong desire to save my family history and heritage so when I moved back here I committed to rebuilding the farm and to being a farmer,” Jonathan said.
He first started a wasabi trial, which has since expanded to an 800-square-foot greenhouse. During the next few years, he added grass-fed mini zebu cattle, goats, ducks and vegetables. His farm, W.O.W.S.A., stands for “Western Organic Wasabi & Sustainable Agriculture.”
To monitor the results of his agrovoltaic project, Jonathan is working closely with Appalachian State University, where he is an honor student studying Sustainable Development focusing on Agroecology. He involves fellow students in the work of the farm. “I use my farm as a learning tool for others to gain critical hands-on experience as well as generate new employment possibilities,” Jonathan said.