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The Crop Report Week 27 | Breaking Ground on the FedEx House

It’s happening! We promised we would keep you in the loop as we take on the massive project of retro-fitting Tunnel 1 from a high-tunnel to an actual greenhouse (read that blog post here). This renovation will allow us to create a controlled growing environment so we can ship bouquets year-round. And today, we have an update!

Maybe you caught it on social media last week, but our FedEx Grant tunnel project has begun! We couldn’t be more excited to see our plan coming to life. Each step reminds us how strong our village of support is because, without all of you, we wouldn’t have been able to make this happen.

 

We have always worked with a local greenhouse crew to build our structures and upgrade them.  I’ve been with this great group of guys since my very first high tunnel, which happens to be the FedEx house we are retrofitting. This tunnel was also one of the first the greenhouse crew ever constructed and we all learned a lot throughout the process. It’s been fun to walk the house with them and point out things that worked and ones that didn’t, chuckling as we make one of the first houses either of us built, better.

Seeing the house without the plastic covering was weird. For the past five years, I have awoken each morning and looked out my kitchen window (coffee in hand) to see its silhouette. In the summer the sides are rolled up, and snow blankets the top during winter, but this week, the greenhouse looked like a ribcage. 

 

While the exposed house and interior crops led to many questions from our farm team, I explained to them this is actually a helpful cycle for the soil within the tunnel. Covering an area of land like high tunnels allows for a more controlled environment, but it also inhibits naturally occurring processes. Rain helps to clean and leach the soil of salt buildup and other contaminants while unaltered sunshine provides other benefits. Ultimately, having our house crops exposed for a short duration has been healthy! We were lucky because during one of the exposed nights we experienced a much-needed soaking rain.

With our construction crew in action, the house wasn’t naked for very long. After completing the edits I had to the inside, it took only minutes for the team of four to pull new plastic on the house and start to frame out all of the exterior mechanical components.

A big part of this upgrade will be a heating and ventilation system to help us create a perfect climate for flowers in the winter. Heating a field to grow blooms with little more than a 6-millimeter sheet of plastic is not very efficient for the propane bill, so to help add insulation we opted for inflatable sides. Basically, we turned the house into a giant balloon. All exterior sides are now covered in two sheets of plastic with air forced in between, creating a bubble around the heated space and allowing the air to help hold in the pricey heated air during winter. 

 

We did this on our end walls and roof and even found an inflated system for the rolling sides. Explaining this is beyond what I can put into words, so you’ll have to come out and see it on July 17th at our Open Farm event!

One of my favorite experiments with this house is a partition wall that splits the tunnel into two sections. We built a wall with a vent system that pulls air throughout the house to create a warmer zone in the front and a cooler one in the rear. I don’t have all the kinks worked out, but we have done a lot of planning to maximize what we can produce in this new setup. Only time will tell how well it *actually* works.

 

While we aren’t close to being done on this project, this week has been a dramatic first step in our dream becoming a reality. As the weeks roll on and construction finishes, we will continue to share our first crops, heated growing methods, and successes and challenges. We are excited to figure everything out and include you in this journey of building out the family flower farm.

- xoxo, Jess

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