NRCS Conservation Programs Help KC Farmers Gain Climate Resilience
Since her graduation from the New Roots for Refugees program in 2011, Beh Paw Gaw has been farming at her own farm, Ki Koko Farms. The farm is a few miles from her house and has no electrical access, so for years Beh Paw has needed a better way to keep produce cool before selling it at the Brookside Farmers Market. In 2020, she applied for a Cultivate KC Mini Grant and was awarded $3,552.50 to construct a mobile cooler. The cooler, based on a publication by the Kansas State University Extension, converts an enclosed cargo trailer into an insulated container with a window AC unit and CoolBot device that allows for produce-approriate temperatures.
The Mini Grant funds were distributed in spring of 2021, and the first step was purchasing a trailer. Ideally, a double axle trailer, at least 6’x12’, would be required for the cooler build. However, a year into the pandemic, finding a suitable and affordable trailer was near impossible. The price of materials had also risen exponentially, so even if a trailer could be purchased within budget, there wouldn’t be enough money left to build the cooler. Luckily, with support from the Kansas Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), additional funding was made available to support this critical piece of infrastructure for Beh Paw.
In early 2022, Beh Paw was able to purchase a trailer. Graduate Support Specialist, Amanda Lindahl then sourced the materials to build out the cooler. Amanda worked with Newton Gaw, Beh Paw’s son, and Ami Freeberg, Metro Farms & Food Systems Program Manager, to construct the mobile cooler. It was a first time build for everyone- it took a lot of reading, following online instructions, and a fair bit of trial and error to finally complete installing the insulation and air conditioner in the trailer. In total, three layers were added to the trailer, including two layers of foamboard insulation to attach to the trailer studs with a layer of FRP material. Lots of caulk, plenty of screws, and a ton of elbow-grease made it complete.
CKC Mini Grants and supporting funding from KS SARE were both critical to increase the amount of produce that Farmer Beh Paw Gaw can safely provide to her customers. We’re also grateful to build the mobile cooler at Juniper Gardens Training Farm, where current New Roots for Refugees farmers could watch the construction progress over several weeks, ask questions, and be introduced to a piece of infrastructure they may need in the future.
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