Prairie View farmer aims for year-round harvest
Farmer Tim Frillman works in his Prairie View greenhouse on Friday. He is trying to turn the facility into a year-round operation. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
The heater system, propane tank and thermostat can make the greenhouse a year-round operation. Contributions to Frillman Farms can be made at www.kickstarter.com.
The campaign runs until Feb. 22.
Updated: February 12, 2013 4:03PM
PRAIRIE VIEW — Jan. 25 was not a great day at Frillman Farms — a hawk swooped down, grabbed one of the chickens and flew away with it.
Owner Tim Frillman watched about $125 in annual revenue disappear into the blue sky, and insurance does not cover the bird.
The Stevenson High School graduate and Prairie View native is now farming next to Herb Didier at the intersection of Aptakisic and Buffalo Grove roads.
To soup up his vegetable-growing greenhouse into a year-round, profitable operation, Frillman has launched an online fundraising drive.
“It’s risky,” Frillman said of his setup. “If the temperature gets down to zero outside, I don’t know if this heater’s going to be able to maintain that critical temperature.”
The heater Frillman spoke of is the space heater that he currently uses to warm about one-third of the 504-square-foot greenhouse, which he built one year ago. Within that structure, he added a small “green penthouse,” where the heater and a desk fan, used to circulate the warm air, keep fragile summer vegetables like basil, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes at about 79 degrees during their first growth period.
Frillman also needs a heater at night and during heavy cloud cover. With sunlight, the temperature under the greenhouse’s six millimeter-thick clear plastic ranges from 70 on a cold afternoon to 110 in the summer, but plummets without it.
To make a profit, Frillman said he must put his entire greenhouse to use year-round, which will require a 100,000 British Thermal Unit heating system with a 500-gallon propane tank and a thermostat.
That would cost about $2,500.
Frillman also owns about 150 chickens — actually one less now. One of Frillman’s fresh-egg customers told him about Kickstarter, a website used to solicit donations from the Internet community.
It is working well so far, Frillman reported. He posted the project Jan. 12, and reached his target last week. He said he’s still accepting donations, though, which he said will used to buy extra propane. The fundraising campaign ends Feb. 22.
“I’m getting a lot of support,” Frillman said.
“Small farming, it’s slowly coming back,” he added. “It’s a lot harder, but so much more rewarding. You have to wake up every day and want it.”