March 7, 2013 by suchandsuchfarm
So after two years of research, planning, digging, building, and drinking our greenhouse finally exists. There it is. Sitting right next to the garden. We are finally ready to grow some sick, tight vegetables, yeah? Not quite.
Our greenhouse is radiantly heated from the floor via hot water provided by our wood boiler which is fantastic except for the fact that our “automatic” window ventilation system does not at all function properly. It is extremely slow to react to temperature increase which means that we are getting daily temperature swings between 55 and 110 degrees in the greenhouse (hotter than balls!). This is meant to be a spa for plants where they can kick back and relax. You know…take it easy, enjoy some consistent temperatures and humidity. Maybe a nice rub down to completion. This is also a problem considering that we have better shit to do on the farm than play with windows, fans, thermostats, and doors all day.
Fortunately this is the future and there are computers which can control all of these heating and cooling systems together and allow me to get back to doing what I do best…digging holes in the mud and carrying heavy objects.
Unfortunately, the future is expensive. These computer and sensor systems are not cheap. Actually, they are very not cheap. Luckily, we are fantastically brilliant, resourceful, and attractive people and through much research, coffee, and telephone calls around the world we managed to solve our problem. Enter Eric Labbate, an expert in Ontario who deals in climate control for gigantic greenhouses, like, dozens of acres. Eric happened to have a computer for small greenhouses which had been sitting on the back of his shelf for too long. He told us he just doesn’t deal in small greenhouses anymore and wanted to get rid of it.
After basically giving us this computer system, my buddy Gus and I decided that we might as well drive to Canada to pick it up and find out what our mysterious neighbors to north are all aboot.
So after antiquing all day and passing through the apocalypse that is Detroit, we finally get to the border. The Canadian customs patrol agent (a major babe) asked Gus to pull over his 19 foot long cargo van tagged with graffiti from half a continent away for a random search (go figure). Upon arriving at the search bay, two more officers (also serious babes) search through the garbage bag which is the van while another agent strapped up with tactical gear like he’s about to jump out of a helicopter asked my buddy Gus to show him his passport. Simple enough. Then he proceeds to ask Gus some questions. “Have you ever been refused entrance to Canada?” “Yes.” “Have you ever been arrested?” “Yes.” “More than once?” “Yes.” All I can think at this point is “shit…we’re not going to Canada.”
For some reason the agent was suspicious, but several border ladies and a K-9 cop later, we were granted passage into the great white north.
Our next stop was Toronto which is a real city on a real lake. After miraculously finding a parking spot big enough for a huge van in the fashion district, we got some brews and went looking for something interesting. Quickly, we discovered that hard cider (the real stuff) exists in Canada. After several tall cans and walks around the block we find a special party is taking place at a special club. If you ever get a chance to see the Diemonds, DO NOT HESITATE! They are like Tia Carrera’s band “Crucial Taunt” from Wayne’s World mixed with Judas Priest. This band is classic heavy metal. I have never actually seen guitarists sway back and forth in unison while playing. This was like a dream come true. (They just started their American Tour so check them out).
After a misunderstanding at a local bath house, we made our way out of Toronto and on our way to Leamington, Ontario “The Sun Parlour of Canada” “The Tomato Capital of the Arctic”, “The Ketchup on your ostrich burger”. The town’s official slogan is (no joke) “Southern latitude, friendly attitude”.” The information center is a giant tomato, but what were most fantastic were the farms, and endless rows of greenhouses on the outskirts of town complimented by dozens of windmills. Hundreds of acres of greenhouse as far as the eye can see.
This is what I was here for. My mouth was watering as I imagined all those healthy plants and our own seeds yet to germinate. We were here for one thing…the computer and sensors which will automatically open and close our ventilation systems and keep our sweet little cute little tiny little precious sweet little plant babies from bursting into flames every time the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. Through this endless paradise of horticulture, we arrive at the laboratory of Climate Control Systems Inc. A pioneer in agriculture, The man who revolutionized greenhouse plant growth in North America, the gentleman who gave us the deal of a lifetime because he liked what we are trying to do on our small farm back in Missouri….ERIC LABBATE!!!!!
Eric thrilled me with his new software designs, sensors, and computers. He showed me the massive fertilizer solution mixing system which he had recently developed for an operation in Venezuala and we shared stories about our very different experiences in South Korea. I was there teaching English while he was helping to grow fresh tomatoes for multi-national troops in the world’s most heavily defended border.
It is always great to spend personal time with a genius and this was no exception. However, the real highlight was seeing 300,000 tomato plants under one roof. That is 300,000 plants per single glass acre. That is 300,000 plants per single glass acre cared for by…two people. How is that possible? Climate control and automation. Eric explained to me that before climate control computer systems and ventilation/humidity watering/fertilization control, this type of high production was impossible. In 30 short years, 18 pounds of fruit per plant has become 60 pounds of fruit per plant. Although Eric could not attribute that figure entirely to climate control, he assured me that “it didn’t hurt.”
As the sun lowered and our precious cargo was secure in the van, Eric went back to his programming and we went to get a celebratory pint of Guinness. I couldn’t believe it. Mission accomplished. Our precious little sweet little babies will have a bright future.