Living the Dream: Chris Butler

Chris Butler
Giving Tree Farms
Anderson Valley, CA

Our summer harvest plants are in full bloom this time of the year, and the air around the farm smells of citrus, pine and sappy goodness. The buds are weighing heavy on the plants, and their pistils are starting to turn orange, so we’ll soon be flushing them to prepare for harvest. Then they will go into the drying room before beginning the cure and processing procedures.

While these summer ladies are finishing up, our fall harvest plants are still in their vegetative state. They are stretching tall toward the sky, soaking up all of the sun’s warm rays, and we are pruning their lower leaves to keep air circulating underneath the canopy. During this time, we have also been tuning up our infrastructure by implementing smart farming technologies and boosting efficiencies around the farm, like improving our irrigation and building our custom, automated greenhouse.

Usually, the north and south end walls of a greenhouse are solid structures that can shade sections of the garden. This is especially true for farmers, like us, who are unable to position our greenhouses to run precisely north and south due to property restrictions. The increase in shaded areas due to placement can significantly affect our overall yield and quality, typically creating the need for more artificial lighting sources.

But with the help of apps like Lumos, a sun-tracking aid, we can begin to predict the sun’s movement in the sky, identifying future shadowed areas within our cultivation space. Through the use of this data and the custom-built retractable end walls, our greenhouse can utilize the sun’s energy to its full potential, allowing us to open otherwise blocked sections of the greenhouse and invite in more natural sunlight. We only lower and block the sun’s light when we need to employ light deprivation, but this addition has increased our canopy’s sunlight exposure by 10-15%, resulting in a significant uptick in our quality and output.

Since our operation at Giving Tree Farms is heavily focused on sustainability, some of the components we used to create our greenhouse are recycled materials that we sourced from around our farm, such as wood salvaged from a collapsed barn on our property. With the pieces that are safe to use, we build the structural parts of this system and lower our ecological footprint in the process.


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