Citrus In the Snow: Growing Oranges In Winter Using Geothermal Heating
“The biggest problem we have is government regulations…”
Nebraska is known for its extreme temperatures, dropping well below freezing in the winter months and soaring to the mid-80s in the height of the summer. These temperatures are far from ideal for growing citrus, and yet, there’s been one grower who’s been consistently producing oranges for the past 25 years—Russ Finch.
For 45 years, Russ was a wheat farmer in the heart of Nebraska, and in his off hours, a mail carrier. During his agriculture career, Russ decided to build a new house and a manufacturing facility to construct riding cabs for pickups. At the time, Russ had heard about the possibilities of geothermal energy, but had yet to see it in action. He was curious if it would be possible to sustainably heat a home in the midst of a Nebraska winter.
Pictured: Local farmers and university professors were skeptical when Russ wanted to grow citrus in a greenhouse—especially during the hard Nebraska winters. But he’s made a good living, experimenting with a number of different varieties over the year. This one is Tango Mandarin.
To heat the house, he used an outside unit that pumped heat from 8 ft. deep in the ground. The structure worked so well that Russ wondered what other applications geothermal energy could have. Immediately, he began to consider whether this type of energy could be harnessed to run a 12-month greenhouse. At 8 ft. deep, the Earth’s temperature is a consistent 52F (11C). By tapping into this heat source, Russ could create a frost-free greenhouse environment year-round. (Read more)
Mr. Finch sells portions of the greenhouse and says one can get set up with a very large one and have a thriving business for local produce for about $25,000
Mr. Finch is 87 and quite a unique farmer using greenhouses, the sun and heat from 10 feet from the Earth’s surface
He grew 165 acres of wheat with just the rains for water and never used pesticides. He says lots of Nebraska farmers do this
He grows mostly citrus in a huge greenhouse, 78 x 17 wide by 12 foot high
He uses the Earth’s heat in a very creative way
Lemons and, oranges are the easiest to grow and the Valencia Oranges are very sweet
They are experimenting with fish ponds in the greenhouses and looking at Bluegill rather than Tilapia
Russell Finch in Nebraska talks about growing citrus and vegetables in the snow, February 5, 2019