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2018 - The Farm

Well, I've been gone a few years from the board, and away from growing peppers, but looks like life is pushing me back that way again. 
I recently (last month) closed on a 25 acre farm in Central Illinois with some primo soil, and I'm going to give a commercial grow a test run. 


From up on the roof, when I was doing some roof repairs on the outbuildings. Not much as far as the eye can see, but cornfields...

Has a 4 stall garage and a horse stable on the property



Probably do my grow room upstairs here after I insulate it

Built some doors for the horse barn and patched the roof last month


Anyway just dropped a cold grand on seeds from pepperlover and buckeye, going to hit a greenhouse supplier up for other materials next week.
Have plans to build a 30x72' greenhouse in the spring, and a ~1200 sq foot dedicated grow room. Too late really to help with this year's grow, but next year it'll save me a lot of hassle on hardening off. 
The greenhouse, I am going to do a piped infloor heat slab, with a horizontal loop geothermal system (I own a mini excavator) that is solar powered. So heating should be nice, uniform, not create heat / cold bubbles, and not dry out plants like forced air would. I build circuit boards in my day job, so I will also build a microcontroller to handle the automated watering system with soil moisture monitors and actuated plumbing valves on the water supply.
Also plan on building a "deep winter" greenhouse for year round production. Got blueprints I made from a couple of years back, those are walled on three sides with heavy duty insulation, with the glass wall side angled to face winter solstice, so you can grow in the deep freeze months of the north. In the summer, those get hot enough to use as a natural dehydrator, replace the tables with racks for bulk drying.
Only doing a half acre or so of peppers to start with this year, the balance will be put in corn. I can't manage more than that with the labor I have available. (When you start talking thousands of plants, simple tasks like up-potting grow in to hundreds or thousands of man hours...)
Going to hire some local kids to help, school has a good ag co-op program for high schoolers, they can get school credit working on local farms. Since the plant out and harvest doesn't conflict too badly with corn, shouldn't have a problem finding labor around here.
Anyway, that's the plans.
We'll see how it goes.. er.. grows.
CMJ said:
Nice looking spread man, I love the shop! What varieties do you have planned for the half acre?
So far this is what I've got coming from buckeye and pepperlover. Most are slated to be either 50 or 100 plants each. Some of the more "edible" ones that I can move more easily on the local farmers markets will be 200 plants. It was REALLY weird ordering QTY 10 or whatever, when putting seed orders in. 
(MOA) Scotch Bonnet
7 Pot Brainstrain Red
7 Pot Chaguanas Red
7 Pot Primo Red
Ají Cereza (PL)
Aji Dulce Red
Bhut Jolokia chocolate, brown
Big Sun Habanero
Brown Moruga
Carolina Reaper
Cayenne Long Red
Dorset Naga
Drying Serrano
Elephant Trunk
Farmers’ Jalapeno
Fatalii yellow
Fatalii Yellow
Giant Aconcagua
Habanero Orange
Habanero Red
Jalapeno Biker Billy
Moruga Butch T
Moruga Scorpion Red
Pimiento Cristal
Reaper Moruga
Sugar cane (PL)
Sweet Anaheim (PL)
Sweet Charleston
Sweet French bell
Tekne Dolması
Thai Orange
Trinidad 7 Pod Primo
Turkish Cayenne
In addition I've got some 80+ varieties of seeds still in the cabinet from previous gardening. I don't have enough to do "production runs" of those, pretty much saving them to do isolation grows in the greenhouse once it is built so I can start my own seed supply. I can't start out in the hole a grand or so on seeds every year, that 2100 sq ft greenhouse that I'm building will be used for seed harvesting. If I can keep the bees out of it. :)
Planning 2x3 spacing for the annum (maybe 1.5x3 on some of them) and 3x3 for the chinense. I used that spacing in a 2500 sq foot garden a few years ago that was devoted only to peppers, and it worked out real well. The crop formed a canopy that kept pods from getting sunburnt, yet I was still able to work my way through the jungle to harvest ok.
Doing the math on chinense spacing - an acre is  43,560 sq feet, and at 9 square foot a plant, that's close to 5,000 plants per acre. So a half acre = 2500 plants (although the annums will take up a lot less space, so, more than that)
I'll set up the plot with 150 foot rows, so 50 plants per row.
I can't make that sized farm profitable on corn or beans, no way. Between the mortgage and property tax I've got 35k / year expenses right off the bat. The land's PI index is ~130 so it's seriously good soil, appraised at $14,600 an acre (I got it for about 11k/acre). 
So there's a lot of expenses right off the bat. We'll find out this year how big of a mistake I've made. Don't like the idea of flushing a half mil in equipment, land, and buildings down the toilet if it don't work out so I'm "highly motivated" lol :)
Walchit said:
That's a nice property! I am looking forward to your glog
Thank you!
dragonsfire said:
Great looking land, looks nice and clean too! 
Yeah it should be ideal - the only big worry I have is the wind.... 
kccellall said:
That is one beautiful scenery....Happy Growing
Thank you!
Illsstep said:
So cool!! Your grow room looks like it will require artificial lighting. What are you planning to use?
My property holding company bought a bank building in 2015 and renovated it in 2017. I'll be using all of the old florescent lights we pulled out for this year. With the scale of this I don't have the budget for lighting like I'd like to have. 
2019, with the green house budgeted, won't be as big of a deal. 
I saved all of the old florescent ballasts from the building when we installed new energy efficient ones;

The big challenge is rigging up a pulley system for the old heavy ones I pulled out, so I can keep them over the seedlings and adjust them as they grow.
DontPanic said:
Wow! This is going to be one of the more interesting Glogs to follow this year!
Yeah, it'll get especially interesting when I fall on my face. :)
This is 10x bigger than anything I've attempted before. 
Edmick said:
Nice piece of land ya got there. Congrats!
Thanks!!! It's exciting, and also very nerve wracking at the same time.
sobelri said:
Nice.  Best of luck.
tctenten said:
Welcome back Trent. Pretty ambitious plans, and I cannot wait to see your pepper jungle.
Thanks man, good to see you again! I've been looking for land for a couple years, plotting and scheming, this is where it gets interesting. :)
Good news is, the farm is just 10 minutes from my house.
I tossed a 'help wanted' post out on the local town's facebook page earlier today, already have four workers signed up.
If nothing else, it'll make some jobs for folks this year.
In a veritable ocean of corn, beans, and wheat, this little project will catch some attention around here. 
So many folks out of work, plenty of labor pool to draw from for a manual farming operation. 
Awesome stuff here Trent. If you need more seeds maybe look at Whitehotpeppers.com. Justin could probably hand deliver them to ya in central il.

Will follow this glog for sure
Walchit said:
Just move in to that horse barn and you will be 0 minutes from your house! That garage is so nice I had assumed there was a house that went with it.
There is a big 2 story farmhouse on the property, but it's in pretty rough shape. We quit counting when I got to 100k in materials and 6 months of labor on what it'd take to renovate it; and that's at our contractor rates on materials using my own crew. We'll probably end up harvesting all the hardwood out of it and demo'ing it. Time (150 years), weather, and termites have all had their way with that old farmstead.
Genetikx said:
Awesome stuff here Trent. If you need more seeds maybe look at Whitehotpeppers.com. Justin could probably hand deliver them to ya in central il.

Will follow this glog for sure
Damn, I didn't realize there was a local vendor or I would have jumped on that. 
Eventually when I get the greenhouse done I want to grow my own isolated plants for seeds, but for at least another year I'll be buying them. I need to find bulk rates on stuff; I wanted to support the couple vendors I knew on here from a few years ago but damn it's expensive when you need that many. 
If this operation works out and I get a feel for labor, timing, and what product(s) I can move come harvest time, hopefully I can expand in subsequent years. 

The property is large enough to grow 105,000 plants at full production. (Of course I'll need about 3 acres of greenhouses and miles of drip irrigation and ... yeah, it'll be a long time before I'm there.)
That’s a brave endeavor. My hat’s off to ya. It sounds like you did your research. I hope everything turns out great.

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