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Open Ridge Farm Extends Growing Season

Crops are started in the greenhouse before being planted in the field.

In modern agriculture, it is important that a farmer has the ability to extend his growing season. When a farmer has the resources available, he can grow certain crops in the off season which allow him to have a steady cash flow year round. One way that a farmer can extend his growing season is by building a greenhouse. Jona Felts and Gretchen Ferrell, owners and operators of Open Ridge Farm in Burnsville, NC, decided to build a greenhouse for this purpose but did not have the funds to do so.

Jona and Gretchen’s daughter, Opal, standing inside the warm greenhouse on a cold winters day.

In 2016, the Felts received a $1,040.67 TVA Energy for Farms Grant to put toward building the lean-to style greenhouse they wished to have on their farm. “In the normal growing season, we will use the greenhouse to start our seeds before they go out into the field,” said Felts. “During the off season, we can use the greenhouse to grown small crops like herbs so we can be a supplier to restaurants and our customers year round.” The greenhouse is also being heated passively, meaning it is using heat from the sun instead of a conventional heat source. “We use water barrels inside the greenhouse that absorb heat during the daytime and radiate it at night,” said Felts. “It is a very effective and energy-efficient system to use because you are using a natural heat source.”

Pica Rica, Pica Verde, and Chipotle Pica Verde are the three hot sauce flavors Open Ridge Farm sells.

One of Open Ridge Farm’s top selling products is their hot sauce. The peppers are grown on the farm and it is made in the farm kitchen right on site. Felts originally started out making just one sauce he calls “Pica Rica” which means tasty bite. “I came up with this idea while I was living in Costa Rica,” said Felts. “When we moved back to the states, this sauce became so popular that we decided to not only sell it to local restaurants, but to invent two other flavors!” The two other sauces offered from Open Ridge Farm are “Pica Verde” and “Chipotle Pica Verde”. You can purchase these three hot sauce flavors from their website by going to www.openridgefarm.com.

In addition to their hot sauces being a huge success, Open Ridge Farm also produces crops like asparagus, potatoes, winter squash, small fruits, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs. They sell their products to these local restaurants: Snapdragon (Burnsville, NC), Blind Squirrel (Spruce Pine, NC), and West Village Market (Asheville, NC).