Farming in Snow Country

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sat, Feb 27, 2016 - 9:21pm

Farming in Snow Country

Improving food security is one of the top goals of the North Farm, a Michigan State University incubator farm launched last year to give beginning growers the tools they need to overcome the punishing U.P. climate and develop profitable enterprises. It’s part of a broader push to strengthen the economy through local food systems in a region that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is largely a “food desert.”

Using a $500,000 USDA grant, MSU researchers have breathed new life into the 160-acre, long-fallow farm. It’s part of the larger Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center, established in 1899 in Chatham, a village of just over 200 people in the central U.P. about seven miles south of Lake Superior.

I went to Michigan State, although I was not an "aggie" (agricultural student). Believe me, it was a challenge getting out of bed for that 9 AM math class when the wind chill was -10F. And that was mid-state, in the "mitten" (look at the shape of lower Michigan). Some of my classmates were from Michigan's Upper Peninsula and they ran around in sub-zero weather with their coats open.

So if you're from a chilly spot and want to garden, take note of some of the "cool" --pun intended--ideas in this article!


robshepler's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 16 2010
Posts: 117
Low tech ag

Everyone should have a high tunnel!

We inadvertently did a trial last year, beets that were inside low tunnels or high tunnels had a growth rate of 3x to 5x compared to those that were outside. Reduced desiccation, predation and a little more warmth make a huge difference in growth.

The above is a great guide.

Here in the mountains of NM we had a week of 10 below temps and 2 feet of snow. The tunnels shrugged off the snow, we did lose some lettuce to the cold, we are binging on spinach every night. Winter spinach is sweet an delicious!

David Huang's picture
David Huang
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 20 2010
Posts: 77
Thanks for the link to the

Thanks for the link to the article, Wendy. I live in the lower peninsula and usually vacation in the upper peninsula at least once a year.  I may have to try and hunt down that pemaculture park they mentioned.  It might be fun to check out the North Farm too.

pinecarr's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2262
Great article on growing in a cold-weather climate, Wendy!

In our area (rural NY), people joke about our "2 weeks of summer" around the 4th of July (a little bit of an exaggeration, but it doesn't seem like it some long winters!).  I do bow-down to these folks, though; it sounds like they have some REALLY severe winters and growing-season constraints. 

I love the idea that the University is focusing on researching and teaching how to get the most out of gardens in snow country climates.  I wish their classes for "skill-seekers" were taught around here!  Nice to see they are doing it, tho'.  I hope it is a trend.

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