CHRISTMAS - When it comes to fresh, locally grown produce, one area farmer is thinking green - greenhouses that is.
John Hust is hoping to hit the ground running by building a number of greenhouses along M-28, about .4 mile east of Christmas, that people have bought and then pay to have cultivated.
"The big objective is to produce food locally," Hust said. "I'm a firm believer in peak oil and the fact that we're now on the downward slope as far as suppliers are concerned, and we anticipate that food shipped into the Upper Peninsula is going to be increasingly expensive."
John Hust looks at tomato plants in his home greenhouse in Shelter Bay. Hust is proposing a complex of greenhouses in Alger County where owners could grow their own vegetables. (Journal file photo by John Pepin)
Peak oil is the term given to the point in time when the majority of petroleum available in the Earth has been extracted. Many people believe that point has come and gone, and the Earth's oil reserves are waning. To combat this issue, Hust said he is hoping to involve an increasing number of people in using locally grown food.
And since the growing season is so short in the U.P., he decided the best way to provide enough food would be through the use of greenhouses.
"If a person is going to go in their backyard, they're going to risk a late or early frost, before their crop is mature, and as a consequence, I think more and more people will have to go into some protection against that environment," Hust said. "The greenhouse also has a protection against insects. We don't use any herbicides, we don't use any insecticides. The enclosed environment of a greenhouse allows you to do that."
Hust, who has plenty of greenhouse and farming experience as the owner of Shelter Bay Tomatoes, estimated he could place about 500 30-foot by 40-foot greenhouses on the site, each with its own water and electrical hookups.
Hust said the greenhouses would cost anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000, which would include the purchase of the greenhouse along with water and electrical fees. The idea would be to get groups of people to pitch in on the same greenhouse, such as a service club or neighborhood. Restaurants looking to serve locally produced food would also be good candidates for the greenhouses, he said.
Once the greenhouse was built, Hust said the owner could either pay Hust and his team of farmers and master gardeners to cultivate it or they could choose to do so themselves.
"We would farm it for them at a fee, or if they're active themselves but don't have the land to put it on and could farm it themselves, they would pay us a rental fee for space, electrical hookup and water," Hust said. "If they produce more than what their family or group could use, they could sell it at the farmer's market or could donate it to food pantries."
Hust said the idea for the greenhouse rental site was a combination of self-site storage and consumer supported agriculture programs, which provide weekly boxes of fresh produce from local farms to subscribers.
"This is kind of an extension of that," he said.
Anyone interested in purchasing a greenhouse can contact Hust by calling 892-8227 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.