What are some sources of information on building a walk-in cooler?
F.W.KentuckyAnswer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA with your request for information on how to build a walk in cooler. Lynn Byczynski, in her recent book Market Farming Success, has a good section on coolers. Byczynski and her husband were market gardeners for over 20 years. She also has visited many other market growers as she collects material for her monthly journal Growing for Market (www.growingformarket.com). Her comments are based on experience. Byczynski highly recommends purchasing a used cooler in good condition over a farm-built one. Secondhand coolers can sometimes be purchased from a florist going out of business, or a heating and cooling contractor who services coolers. You can also purchase a used cooler from Barr, Inc., a company that specializes in reconditioned refrigeration (www.barrinc.com; 920-231-1711). That said you can find plans online for building your own. A few options are given below. The most affordable option seems to be a device called the “Coolbot.” It is basically an adaptor that converts an air-conditioner into a walk-in cooler compressor. This system was invented on a farm and has been tested and affirmed as an affordable cooler alternative on a number of small-scale farms. Go to http://www.storeitcold.com/.The ATTRA publication, Post-Harvest Handling of Fruits and Vegetables, gives rudimentary plans for a “Portacooler,” a portable precooler designed by USDA researchers can be built with readily available materials. The Portacooler can be towed to the field and used to reduce field heat of berries, vegetables, and other high-value crops immediately after picking. It is not intended for long-term storage. Please check these websites: http://www.bre.umd.edu/portacooler3.htm and http://www.bre.umd.edu/portacooler2.htm.A 3-page bulletin, Walk-In Cooler by D.E. Darby, can be found at http://www.cps.gov.on.ca/english/plans/E6000/6319/6319L.pdf. It gives information on building one. Finally, you should check http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cutting/msg09143945642.html for a discussion among other market gardeners about their experiences.