Down On The Farm: Drosophila, Dryers and Demos, Oh my!

Rocky Casillas blog, featured, news

From on-farm storage to value-added processing, farm-scale infrastructure is the key to helping farmers become profitable. Our Farm exists to innovate, test and share agriculture solutions that are affordable and accessible to a new generation of beginning farmers and small, diversified farms.

We recently teamed up with Lilly Springs Farm and Ecological Design to develop a mobile drying system that could increase the value and shelf life of botanical crops. Thereby, supporting farmers maximize their capacity to produce and sell dried herbs, including those affected by Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).

SWD is an invasive fruit fly that damages crops by feeding on healthy, intact fruit. It was first observed in Minnesota in 2012 and has spread across the state, affecting various berry crops, including our two acres of Elderberries.

Conventional management systems call for spraying to prevent infestation of the fruit, but because there is no approved spray to control the larvae, only the adult flies, there is no way to contain the impact and spread of SWD. We needed to develop alternative harvest and management systems with Elderberry crops to minimize the effects of SWD, consistent with organic standards.

Elderberry is a unique perennial crop, with both the flowers and the fruit being marketable commodities. Growers wanting to capitalize on their Elderberry crop, but who do not wish to spray, can manage and harvest for flowers exclusively. However, without a drying system, the flowers cannot be preserved for packaging and sale.

Traditional tunnel dryers require an existing structure in which to install them or a greenhouse, which limits the effectiveness of drying. Our farm team proposed building a mobile, standalone dryer utilizing a 20’ shipping container. By combining readily available equipment, they believed an effective dryer could be built for a fraction of the cost of a traditional dryer.

With support from NCR-SARE, the team purchased a container and experimented with different types of flooring and airflow systems. Farm Managers, Josie Trople and Wyatt Parks will present their findings this Saturday, June 12. They will also demonstrate a smaller DIY dryer for homestead-scale production.

You can register for our FREE botanical dryer workshop here:

Sharing Our Roots’ farm was established in 2017 as a home for regenerative food and farm innovation, demonstration, field research, and training. Its founding vision included a commitment to advancing social and economic equity through access to land and training for aspiring immigrant and beginning farmers. 

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