For farmers on leased land, permanent structures are the wrong kind of cash crop. Leave the land and the building stays.
Students with the Clemson University Architecture Center in Charleston (CAC.C) have a solution: A relatively low-cost shed that can be disassembled and moved if a tenant farmer has to relocate.
Not only is the shed portable, it also means small farmers can attain certain food standard certifications, an important requirement that helps them grow their businesses and enhance the local food chain.
The students developed and built a Good Agricultural Practices — or GAP — shed and cooler on leased land farmed by Sweetgrass Garden, a nonprofit that provides local produce to charitable food-distribution agencies in South Carolina. The farm sells a portion of its produce for income to sustain the enterprise.
GAP is a set of production guidelines designed to reduce the likelihood of microbial or other contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many buyers, from grocers to restaurants, require farmers to adhere to GAP principles.
The students’ project was the brainchild of Harry Crissy, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties regional economic and community development agent with the Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development.
Crissy said leasehold farmers can avoid potential conflicts with landowners over erecting permanent and often costly structures.
“The shed and cooler are modular, meaning that if tenant farmers relocate, they can break it down and move it,” he said. “For farmers on a lease, it becomes an asset rather than a sunken cost.”
Limehouse Produce Co. partnered with Clemson on the project, which was sponsored by Lowcountry Harley-Davidson, Triangle Char + Bar, Hughes Lumber and Southern Lumber.
Architecture professor David Pastre said the concept uses materials that are durable and easily cleaned. The shed has an insulated cooler room for fresh produce and sinks to clean the vegetables.
The students designed a complete drainage system and utilized an innovative foundation that can be lifted and moved with the structure to a new location. They faced challenges working with uneven grades and stability, and many aspects of the roof installation were new to them.
The shed as designed costs about $7,000, not including labor. The cost would drop for a smaller shed and if the cooler is not included, which is not required now for GAP certification.
Pastre said the students’ idea is based on open source architecture. Purchasers get a list of materials and full set of construction drawings for the shed.
“The students’ challenge was to design a transportable structure that met GAP standards, was durable and reflected the rural architectural traditions,” Pastre said.