Vermont Vegetable and Berry News – January 15, 2006
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13


New Location! Capital Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, 100 State Street, Montpelier.  (802) 223-5252

8:30    Registration, Trade Show, Refreshments

9:30    President’s Remarks
           David Marchant, River Berry Farm, Fairfax

9:45    How I Set Up My Greenhouses to Save Time and Money
           Ed Person, Ledgewood Farm Greenhouses, Moultonboro NH

10:30   Soil Amendment Effects on Damping Off in Cucumber Seedlings
           Karen Hills and Christine Manuck, UVM Plant and Soil Sci. Dept.

11:00   Tools and Techniques for Saving Energy in the Greenhouse
            John Bartok, Agricultural Engineer, University of Connecticut

12:00   Luncheon and Trade Show

1:30     Business Meeting: Election of Officers, Public Relations, etc.

1:45    Update on Crop Insurance Programs
           Colleen Kisselburgh, Arthur Carroll Crop Insurance Agency

2:00    Farm Signage: How to Keep it Safe and Keep it Legal
           Sam Lewis, Director of Operations, VT Agency of Transportation

2:30    Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Vermont Agriculture
           Jennifer Cram, Customer Project Manager, Efficiency Vermont

3:00    Round Tables (open discussion)
          Making Biodiesel on the Farm.  Richard Wiswall, facilitator
          Greenhouse vegetable varieties and seed sources.  Mike Collins, facilitator

4:00    Adjourn  - Trade Show

Pre-registrations must be received by Feb. 3rd; they are $25 for members, $35 for non-members; add $5 for at-the-door registrations. Lunch and morning coffee with pastries are included.

Membership dues for 2006 are $35. Member benefits include: A 2005-06 Vegetable or Small Fruit Management Guide, or a book: ‘Managing Cover Crops’ or ‘Building Soils’ or ‘Steel in the Field’ plus a subscription to Agriview newsletter (with the VT Vegetable and Berry News), and American Vegetable Grower magazine.

Mail your check to: VV&BGA, c/o Doug Johnstone, P.O, Box 701, Springfield, VT 05156

Note: there will be no Vermont Vegetable and Berry Grower meeting at the Vermont Farm Show this year, since the annual meeting will be held just one week later.

Adapted from John Bartok, Univ. of Connecticut agricultural engineer.

Energy conservation measures can help offset recent increase in fuel prices and production costs. Keeping the greenhouse heating system in peak operating condition is a good starting point.

Protect your fuel tanks; 20% of all service calls result from dirty fuel or problems related to the flow of the fuel. Tanks should be located away from dusty locations and water tight fittings should be used. Outdoor tanks should be protected from harsh winter weather with an enclosure.

Have all heating units serviced. The efficiency of most greenhouse heating systems can be improved by at least 5%.  Have a competent service person clean and adjust all furnaces and boilers before the start of the heating season. This should include changing the fuel filter on oil furnaces. It is surprising how much sludge and dirt collects in the fuel. Replace the nozzle: wear increases the nozzle orifice opening increasing fuel usage. Select a nozzle with the correct spray angle to fit the firebox. Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations. Replace and adjust electrodes. Inspect safety controls including cad cell sensor, transformer, limit switch and fan control.

On propane units check gas regulators for proper pressure settings and to be certain the regulator and gas port vents are not plugged. Tank relief valves should be replaced every 5 to 10 years. On larger systems an evaporator or vaporizer converts the liquid propane into the gaseous state. These heaters with safety valves and flame supervisor need to be checked and maintained. The mixer, a valve which combines propane gas with atmospheric air should be serviced and tested to manufacturers’ recommendations. It is best to operate the furnace on a monthly basis during the year to check for problems.

Soot should be removed from heat exchanger surfaces. A 1/8-inch soot deposit can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10%. Brush and vacuum surfaces or clean them with special cleaning compounds. Exterior heat exchange surfaces, such as tubes, fins and radiators collect considerable dust and dirt in a greenhouse atmosphere. Brush and vacuum these surfaces to increase heat output. Clean blowers for efficient air movement. Drain off dirty water in steam and hot water systems. Analyze boiler water periodically to determine if treatment is needed.

Efficiency testing of a furnace or boiler is a 10 minute procedure that can indicate when problems begin to occur. It is key to saving money on your heating bill. Increasing efficiency by one or two percent can significantly reduce fuel consumption over the year. For example, a 2% increase in efficiency of a million Btu/hr burner operating 3300 hours from September to May will save about 650 gallons of fuel oil.

The combustion process combines the carbon in the fuel with the oxygen in the air. The lack of adequate oxygen results in incomplete combustion and carbon buildup. A 400,000 Btu/hr furnace will require about 100 cu ft of air/minute to operate efficiently. In tight poly and glass greenhouses, a makeup air supply of 1 sq in of intake area/2000 Btu/hr burner input should be available from a pipe or louver through the endwall unless a separated-combustion heater is installed. These are installed with a direct connection
to outside air.

Flue pipe connections should be tight and the chimney should extend at least 2 feet above the ridge of the greenhouse. The top of the chimney should be at least 8 feet above the combustion chamber and have a cap to prevent backdrafts and possible air pollution injury to plants.

Accurate controls are important to achieve high efficiency. The payback of replacing an old mechanical thermostat with a new electronic thermostats having a +/- 1 deg F differential is very short. The sensor should be shielded and aspirated with a small fan to quickly sense changes in the environment.

Air circulation will reduce temperature stratification in the greenhouse. Installing horizontal air flow (HAF) fans that move air at 50 to 100 feet/min can limit temperature differences to no more than 2 degrees at any point in the growing area. Use 1/10 horsepower circulating fans located 40 to 50 feet apart to create a circular flow pattern.


The Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers' Association provide grants to support small scale, farmer-designed research projects. Projects may involve any aspect of vegetable or berry growing or marketing which will benefit VVBGA growers. The applicant must be a current member of the VVBGA, and grants are limited to $500 per applicant, per year. Grant funds may be used for expendable materials, hired services, phone calls, printing, and up to $100 for the grantee's own labor. Half the grant will be paid on approval of the project and the remainder after its completion, which includes submission by of a written description of the research results, a listing of actual expenses and a short presentation describing the project at the annual VVBGA meeting, or other such meetings.

To apply, send a written proposal by January 27 that describes your project, its objectives, and budget to: Hank Bissell, P.O. Box 123, Starksboro VT 05487, or It’s a good idea to check in with Hank about the project prior to sending an application (802) 453-4591. Grant decisions will be made by the Association’s board of directors immediately after the annual meeting February 7.


On January 14, 2006, at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton NOFA-VT will hold a conference dedicated entirely to direct marketing.  Workshops will cover farm planning and pricing products for profit, creating value added products, CSA innovations, and workshops for farmers’ market development.   Conference fee is $25 which includes a great local lunch.  For more info: or 802-434-4122.