Russ Finch holds up half of a Cara Cara orange grown in his geothermal greenhouse in Alliance, Neb.
Courtesy of Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media
For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you’ll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.
Some visionaries think greenhouses could help meet demand for year-round local produce. But there’s a problem with greenhouses: They can be energy guzzlers, typically lit and heated by burning fossil fuels.
“It might actually, energy-wise, make more sense to ship from faraway distances, because we do have a lot of energy-efficient ways to ship, including trains, barges and such,” says Dawn Thilmany, who studies the local food system at Colorado State University. But if you can cut out those carbon-rich heat sources, growing local greens in greenhouses starts to make sense, she says.