• Updated Website Address: LocalBanquet.org
  • Looking Back on a Decade of Maple Innovation
  • Listening to Farmers’ Voices in the Ecosystem Services Discussion
  • Updated Website Address: LocalBanquet.org

    We've changed our website. Please update your bookmarks to LocalBanquet.org LocalBanquet.org is where you will now find the latest Local Banquet stories, a new Story of the Day update feature, features from the archives, and information on how to contribute to Local Banquet if you're interested in writing about Vermont agriculture. 

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  • Looking Back on a Decade of Maple Innovation

    Back in 2007, Local Baquet ran an article by Bonnie Hudspeth on maple innovation and production in Vermont. Since then, maple production in Vermont has tripled to 1.8 million gallons a year and innovation seems to have entered a new golden (or perhaps amber) age. We did a quick maple innovation news round up for 2018 / 2019 to help everyone keep up with the some of the trends. 

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  • Listening to Farmers’ Voices in the Ecosystem Services Discussion

    In 2015, the USDA funded a project for UVM researchers to engage in discussions with Vermont farmers about the idea of being paid for ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are things farmers do that improve the environment for everyone, a common example is grass-based farms capturing carbon in the soil as a way to combat climate change. Some services happen naturally through sustainable farming, others take more of an incentive to implement, and either way some policy makers believe that farmers shoudl be compensated for their contribution. 

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Build a Solar Food Dryer

solar food dryer

Written By

Meg Lucas

Written on

June 01 , 2008

I built this solar food dryer about 15 years ago and I’ve been using it ever since to dry vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. The design is similar to a suitcase. Each end has a simple screen–covered frame that allows warm air to circulate from the bottom, over the eight drying racks, and out the top, while preventing unwanted guests from getting to your food. This easy–to–build project is a great way to preserve food.

solar dryer notch detailI started by constructing the sides of the dryer. They are made up of two pieces of 3/4” pine. The outside piece is 3/4” x 3” x 39”; you’ll need to cut two of these. The inside pieces are cut from 3/4” x 2 1/2” x 39” stock and they are then notched to receive the drying racks (See detail for measurements). To assemble the sides, I simply glued them together.

Next, I made the frames for the top and bottom of the dryer. Using 3/4” x 3/4” stock I cut 4 pieces to a length of 24” and 4 pieces to a length of 3”. I notched out each end of the stock to create a lap joint. I then assembled the frames using glue and a brad to hold them in place while the glue dried. Once dried, I covered the frames with a nonmetallic mesh screen, which I purchased at the local hardware store. Here I also used non–rusting staples to attach the screen to the frames. For the back of the dryer I used 1/4” plywood cut to 39” x 24”. Next I cut 4 pieces of 3/4”stock to 1 1/2” x 24”.

Assembly consists of first gluing and nailing the back to the sides. I then attached the 1 1/2” pieces to the top and bottom of the back using finishing nails. Flipping the dryer over I attached the remaining 1 3/4” pieces to the top and bottom of the two sides using the same method. At this point the top and bottom screen frames can be attached to the dryer using finishing nails or screws.

The door of the dryer is constructed of two pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2”by 36” stock and two pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2” by 24” stock. A 22 1/2” x 34 1/2” piece of 1/8” Plexiglas fits into a 3/8” deep by 1/2” wide rabbet cut in the back of the doorframe pieces. I used 3” wood screws to assemble the frame. The Plexiglas is held in place with a 1/4”quarter–round molding, mitered to fit the frame. The finished door is mounted to the dryer using two 2 1/2”butt hinges. At the top of the dryer frame I attached two double-wing flush clips.

There are eight drying racks and they are constructed of 3/4” x 3/4” stock, 21” long and 4” wide and covered with the same nonmetallic screen. The racks sit in the grooves in the dryer’s interior and can be inserted or removed as you need.

solar dryer back detailFor the back legs I used 2 pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2” x 18” stock for the legs and 1 piece of 3/4” x 3” x 21” for the middle brace. I used 3” wood screws to fasten the legs and middle brace together. I also attached a 3/4 ” x 3” x 4” piece of stock to the back of the dryer below the leg assembly to mount the double wing flush clip. The leg assembly is attached to the dryer using strap hinges (see detail below).

To help reflect the sun I painted the interior of my dryer with white milk paint, since the idea is to dry the food not cook it. The final touch was to install a handle on the side.

To use the dryer all you need to do is set it up facing the sun and arrange your food on the drying racks. I like to slice the vegetables and mushrooms thinly as I find this aids the drying time. The great thing about this solar dryer is that it’s easy to transport, set up, easy to use, and easy to store.

About the Author

Meg Lucas

Meg Lucas

Co-publisher Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.