In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share with you one of the many projects my dad has been working on for the farm – the refrigerated trailer. When I moved onto the farm in January, I knew I was going to need some sort of refrigeration for the vegetables. The summers here get hot and a lot of the vegetables I am growing need to stay cool (down to around 41F) for up to 24 hours before they go to the farmers market. I looked into buying a used large-sized commercial refrigerator, but I don’t have an obvious place to put it where it can be plugged in. The barn would work well because it’s covered, but it doesn’t have power, so that was a no-go. There’s limited covered space around the house, and I was worried about a refrigerator sitting outside and getting wet from the rain and the snow. With that option out, I immediately thought about walk-in coolers. Lots of farms use them, and the farm where I worked outside of Seattle, Local Roots Farm, even had a walk-in cooler that was powered by an air conditioner instead of a compressor. This is an energy-saving option made possible by a little device called a CoolBot that tricks the air conditioner to run at temperatures lower than normally possible. The only problem is that I am renting the farm and don’t plan to be here forever, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to install a walk-in.
That’s where the refrigerated trailer comes in. While poking around on Craiglist looking for farm equipment, I came across an ad for a “Veggie Trailer.” It was an insulated 6’x12′ trailer that contained an air conditioning unit inside. The guy who had built it had used it to cool vegetables to take to market, but he was getting out of the vegetable growing business and wanted to sell it. Here was an option that worked for me! The trailer could be pulled up by my house where the air conditioner could be plugged in, it was weather proof and water tight, and could travel with me when I move off this farm onto my own property. So, I bought the trailer and my dad and I hauled it home to the farm, and I started using it to store and cool my vegetables overnight before I’d take them to the market. The only problem was that the air conditioner could only cool the trailer down to about 55F at best, and on warm days, it struggled to get below 70F. That didn’t really help much with my veggie cooling issue, so I had to keep everything inside the trailer iced down to keep them cool enough. But what about the CoolBot?! I knew a CoolBot would help solve my problem, but unfortunately, the air conditioning unit inside my trailer wasn’t compatible with the CoolBot. My dad found a used air conditioner that would work with the CoolBot, and this past week, after he retired for the second time, he spent several days installing the new air conditioner, adding extra insulation to the trailer, and hooking up the CoolBot. The final version of my refrigerated veggie trailer is awesome, and it’s now sitting out in the shade under a big sycamore tree next to my house waiting to be put to use. We had to work out some electrical issues over the last few days, but everything is up and running and the CoolBot-powered air conditioner is cooling the inside of the trailer from ambient temperature down to 40 degrees in less than 15 minutes, which is amazing!!! I am so excited to put the trailer to use, and can’t thank my handy dad enough for doing all the hard work, especially since he’s retired (again).