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Local farmers awarded MDA Sustainable Ag Grant

A Henning couple has been awarded a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to conduct solar research on their farm.

Diane and Chuck Webb, owner-operators of Gardens Gourmet, will use the grant to research the use of solar collection and thermal storage to provide in-floor heat for vegetable production. The solar collectors will heat water and store the energy for use in two raised beds and two low beds that are 3 feet wide and 100 feet long.

Project Director Chuck Webb says data will be collected hourly and electronically compiled with a computer software program. He says they're very eager to see the results of this three-year project.

"We can't wait to see how successful this collection and storage system will be," said Webb. "With in-floor heat, we could start planting vegetables much earlier in the spring and extend the growing season well into late fall."

Diane Webb says a longer growing season means more produce to meet the demands of consumers.

"With the increased interest in locally grown foods, Minnesota growers are working hard to find ways to provide consumers with fresh fruits and vegetables for longer than the typical four to five month season," she said.

The MDA's Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program has been awarding grants for new and innovative projects for 22 years. Grant recipients are required to gather data for three years, culminating with a public field day at the conclusion of the project.

Gardens Gourmet farm is located 15 miles southwest of Wadena on State Highway 29. The Webbs raise berries, herbs and vegetables.

It is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation where consumers can purchase a membership for seasonal produce or they can purchase Gardens Gourmet products at the Webb's roadside market and at local farmers markets.

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