Here at Happy Dirt, we are working to create a more resilient food system by cultivating regional availability year-round. One way we do that is by extending our growing seasons with our farms that are strategically located throughout the state. The climate variation across three climatic regions, fertile soils, and our diverse network of organic farmers in North Carolina allow us to extend the growing seasons for organic produce.
Our core growing season for Happy Dirt farmers in the state starts in April and runs through December with some organic commodities like sweet potatoes and greens having year-round availability. Because Happy Dirt farmers are located throughout the state, we are able to offer many of our items for extended seasons and offer a consistent flow of product to our customers, which means you have more time to enjoy your favorite organic produce.
how does a farmer extend growing seasons?
The organic farmers in our network extend growing seasons by adjusting their planting schedule, implementing different methods of planting, investing in innovative storage practices and implementing diverse formats of growing.
Moving from east to west through North Carolina’s three distinct regions, Happy Dirt farmers are able to extend field-growing seasons. This sets organic produce from North Carolina apart as many states do not have the ability to extend the growing season for field crops.
Working closely with Happy Dirt farmers, production plans are created based on market demand. Growing seasons are extended for a variety of organic commodities, including some popular items like cucumbers, berries, greens, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Berries are very sensitive to heat. In order to counteract the often extreme heat in North Carolina, some of the farmers in our network are employing forced-air cooling to quickly control the temperature of harvested product. This helps maintain quality, and allows for an extended berry season.
Like tomatoes, cucumbers thrive in the hot, summer months. Our North Carolina farmers use heated and unheated high tunnels, as well as greenhouses, to grow cucumbers outside of the traditional season. This allows us to offer organic cucumbers from Happy Dirt farmers to our customers before the traditional season begins.
All of our farmers use ice and coolers for their greens and lettuces, but some of them also use hydrocooling technology. This allows them to remove excess environmental heat from the produce prior to shipping. In addition to delivering a fresher product, hydrocooling technology allows for a longer shelf-life and helps to manage pest pressures more efficiently.
Our North Carolina farmers have storage sheds that maintain an ideal humidity and temperature for sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes are harvested from September through November. However, because of innovative storage practices, Happy Dirt is able to offer sweet potatoes year-round.
Typically, field-grown tomatoes last from June through August. Farmers throughout our network in North Carolina are able to extend their growing season, however, by growing under heated tunnels. Tomato season is extended into spring and winter, allowing us to enjoy the garden delight we all love nearly year-round.
Why it matters?
At Happy Dirt, we do our best to contribute to a more sustainable food system that is able to provide access to high-quality food year-round. An ability to extend growing seasons within a regional food system is not only beneficial to Happy Dirt customers – it’s vital for the economic sustainability of our farmers.