Harvest Crates, Bins & Trays Are Must-Haves For Small Farms

Harvest crates, trays and bins may not be the first thing a farmer thinks about, but these simple tools make dealing with produce much easier and efficient.

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by Zach LoeksOctober 8, 2021
PHOTO: Photorama/Pixabay

When it comes to harvest time, there are a number of different containers you can harvest into.  Here are my top three containers and why. 

Crates

Most agricultural supply stores will sell versions of a harvest crate.  Most are roughly 20-inches by 16-inches and 8 to 12 inches high. 

Different Types of Crates

You can buy types that are stackable—you can set them on top of each other to form tall stacks in the barn, root cellar or back of the truck. You can also find nesting crate models that, once emptied, can fit inside each other for storage. 

There are also collapsible crates that can fold down upon themselves after a market or for storage.   

Common Features

Regardless of these features, all crates are designed for air flow.  Proper air movement ensures products don’t mold and can even allow you to use crates for partially curing items like garlic. 

For instance, I cure my garlic in large trays and by hanging it. But I place the the finished bulbs in black crates that still allow enough air flow to finish the curing process. 

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These crates also allow water to flow through. You can use them to hold carrots after being washed, as they allow produce to drip dry. 

The most common job for these crates is, of course, at harvest. I find they work great for harvesting anything dirty. The dirt can fall through the cracks a bit. And airflow helps wick away excess moisture on root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes, but also cucumbers, delicata squash, peppers and more—for these, airflow also helps dissipate field heat.

The versatile standard black mesh side harvest crate is a must have in the market garden and homestead tool shed. 


Read more: Check out these 9 tips for an efficient fall harvest.


Trays

Another great container for harvest, curing and washing is the tray. And, honestly, a standard bread tray works great. 

You can often find used bread trays for sale online. These are literally the trays that deliver breads, bagels and pastries around your region every day.  They are shallow, wide and stackable and often will have collapsible handles too to allow for better storage. 

Protect the Delicate Produce

This design allows you to efficiently stake small, fragile products. 

For instance, we harvest cherry tomatoes right into pints, which we then place on bagel trays. The trays can stack these ready-to-sell tomatoes in a truck to transport to market without bruising.

Great for Curing

Also, bagel trays are the hidden secret for garlic curing. It is super easy to stack trays full of garlic bulbs tall. Then you can set up fans for fast, efficient curing. And, again, the fragile garlic is left unbruised. 

Here’s another great secret of bagel trays. Lay trays in a line on a wash counter, and set your bunches of carrots, beets and radishes on top to effectively spray wash them. You can easily move your trays around as needed to sort cleaned and dirty piles of produce. 

When spray washing, the dirt drips right away, leaving nothing but clean produce on the tray.  


Read more: Improve your farm’s wash area with these 5 tips.


Bins

The standard storage bin is a great go-to solution for many products. I use these in my cold storage to help lock in moisture! 

Many vegetables need to be stored at high humidity (95 percent) and very cold temperatures (34 to 38 degrees F). If you put carrots,  beets and radishes in black harvest crates in a dry cold storage, they will dry out and become limp. As many cold storages on small farms are built with CoolBots and air conditioners, this dries out the air. 

You can go ahead and store your dry products in the cold storage. But you can also store your humidity-loving crops in there when they’re safely tucked into bins.

Distribution Day

These bins are also great for distribution days, whether you’re heading to market or on a CSA run. Why? The same principle—you can keep in valuable moisture for the duration of your transportation. 

However, mind this word to the wise: If you leave produce in a closed storage bin set out in the sun, it will rot. So keep the produce-holding bins in the shade, and add some ice for long market days.

Using a few simple tricks, you can easily distribute $1000 worth of produce to market in this simple, affordable and easy-to-find bin. 

 However, you stack it (and whatever the colors), bins, crates and trays are standard and versatile containers for all your harvest, storage and distribution needs. 

 Grow on! 

 Zach 

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