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Published July 05, 2009, 02:15 PM

Solar greenhouse planned in Carpio, N.D.

An older home in Carpio will be razed this summer to make room for a solar-powered greenhouse to produce organic vegetables and plants for research by students and faculty members at Minot State University-Bottineau.

CARPIO, N.D. — An older home in Carpio will be razed this summer to make room for a solar-powered greenhouse to produce organic vegetables and plants for research by students and faculty members at Minot State University-Bottineau.

The Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture at MSU-Bottineau gave a $20,000 grant to Marvin and Ilene Baker of Carpio, doing business as North Star Farms. Construction of the greenhouse is expected to be finished by mid-August.

North Star Farms has been involved in organic farming for several years.

“This will allow us to grow until Thanksgiving or even later. It’ll be kind of experimental this year,” Marvin Baker said. “Part of why we’re doing this is to take care of a niche that exists on the Northern Great Plains. Certified organic seedlings are very difficult to find. We’re talking about not using any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, no pesticides of any kind. There’s only three of us in North Dakota who do that.”

The cooperative effort between North Star Farms and MSU-Bottineau will include a sharing of research data. More greenhouses are being built MSU-Bottineau, which is writing a curriculum for a program on organic farming.

“Other places in North Dakota can come and look and see how it’s done,” said HollyRose Mawby, the director of the horticulture center at MSU-Bottineau. “The greenhouse that is going up here is different, structurally, than what we’re doing up in Bottineau. That’s one way we’ll provide producers with a variety of choices on how to raise vegetables organically.”

Mawby hopes locally grown produce eventually will wind up on grocery shelves in the state.

“We hope to help build an industry within North Dakota,” Mawby said. “Why spend the fuel, time and labor hauling carrots and onions from California and Texas when we know we can grow them right here? The whole mission of our college, what we are all about, is making sure we are environmentally friendly. Local food production and going organic really ties in.”

The greenhouse has the advantage of a controlled climate to allow an early start to the growing season, meaning seedlings could be ready for shipping well before spring planting.

“Part of our agreement with ECH is to provide seedlings and provide the data on how it was done,” said Ilene Baker. “We’ve gone through the certification process so we can put labels on what we produce and people will get what we say they are getting. They’ll know it’s safe to eat.”

Marvin Baker said sharing information with MSU-Bottineau will be invaluable to the project.

“We’ve got MSU-Bottineau to share research with and it’s close by,” he said. “For that reason alone, it’s huge.”

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