After weighing and bagging almost 6,000 pounds of produce through our basement last season, we needed to make a change. Not only did we have to carry every single pound of produce harvested downstairs for weighing, we also only had a very small 2-door cooler to keep everything cool and fresh. For the 2016 growing season, to keep up with demand we knew we would need a walk-in cooler. For these reasons, we are building an Urban Barn, for our Urban Farm.
The barn is designed to have parking for farm vehicles, a processing area for weighing and bagging produce, a walk-in cooler in which to store fresh produce and storage space for tools and farm equipment. By utilizing a barn-style roof and orienting the building to face south, we have two roof pitches on which to maximize solar gain for future photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. The upper mezzanine allows for more storage space and an area to put all of the guts for the solar systems.
In our continuing efforts to be self-reliant, Josh elected to save a ton of money and do as much work on the barn as possible. With the help of some friends, as much work as possible has been done by Josh and company. We have hired a few contractors to do the ticketed work, but the excavating, concrete, carpentry and roofing will all be done by Josh, with some help. We have hired Josh’s good friend Dave Green to be our resident carpenter on the project. Without friends, this project would have never gotten off the ground.
T.J. came and helped out excavating for concrete forms, Jim, T.J. and Phil helped pour and finish concrete, James and Jim helped stand the walls and James has been helping us put up rafters. The help is so greatly appreciated and the project could not have come to completion without your help gentlemen. There is something to be said about having good friends!
To do some of the work we have hired contractors. Groundhoggers Coring Inc. came in and horizontally drilled in sewer and water lines underground. This allows us to have floor drains, and a sink with running water in the barn. There may be a future addition of a toilet and hot water tank. B.W.S Maintenance will be hooking up our electrical for the barn. Metal Roofing and Supply will be supplying us with the metal roofing and siding materials. Logic Lumber supplied us with the lumber for framing and Inland supplied the concrete. We have yet to purchase overhead doors from Overhead Door Company. All in all, a locally built and sourced barn project. All of our contractors and suppliers have been great so far and we are grateful for their work.
Probably the most fun part of the whole project has been the carpentry. After working as a carpenter’s assistant for 4 years in University, Josh has loved working with wood. This is by far the largest and most complex carpentry project he has worked on. Originally the plan was to frame the barn in five days, oh how quickly we got behind. There is a lot of lumber and a lot of screws in this barn. Screws hold wood together much better and for much longer than air nails. An air nailer might make things fast, but screws are just far superior. For that reason we have screwed every joint in the entire barn. For this reason, it has cost more money and taken substantially longer. But there is something to be said about building something to last!
As mentioned above, the Urban Barn will have a walk-in cooler. For the cooler space, we are using a very cool device called a CoolBot. A CoolBot basically takes an in-window air conditioning unit and makes it a compressor for a walk-in cooler. This is great for many reasons. It saves energy, is significantly cheaper than a commercial cooler compressor. We are custom building the walk-in cooler so that means very special care is being taken with vapour barrier, insulation and waterproofing. Our cooler should have an R32 value and be able to keep 681 cu ft. of area around 2 degrees Celsius. We are so very excited about the quantity of produce we will be able to store in our new cooler! You can check out CoolBot for yourself at http://storeitcold.com/
In order to be able to afford a project of this size, we had to take out a business loan. We have teamed up with Community Futures Lethbridge and they have graciously loaned us the money to be able to build or Urban Barn. If you run a small business and need some funding, check them out. Their mandate is to help promote local entrepreneurs to make their business dreams come true. Check them out here: http://lethbridgeregion.albertacf.com/
The Urban Barn has yet to be completed. Unfortunately due to the much needed rain our work has ceased. Almost all of the rafters are on and very soon we will get the roof sheeting in place. After that we can start on putting on the metal roof and the metal siding. Then it is soffit and fascia and all of the final touches. Things like overhead doors, windows, man doors and the cooler. The cooler needs to be insulated, sealed and wired. The A/C unit needs to be put in place. There is a lot to do, but hopefully by the end of the week we will have a roof and some electricity out there!
The overall plan is to have the Urban Barn finished by May 7th. The walk-in cooler must be operational for the first Farmers’ Market on May 14th at Lethbridge Exhibition Park. The timeline is getting tight, but I know we can get it all done. Once the barn is up, it will be time for the barn warming party. In the meantime, there is tons of tilling and planting to finish to get our crops in for the season. 2016 is shaping up to be a good growing season. Here is to some late spring rains and to a nice hot bountiful summer!