Packing shed to put chill on food

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A new facility in Penryn will offer a much-needed service to agriculture producers at the same time rejuvenating a part of Placer County history. Keith and Karin Sinclair, who operate Sinclair Family Farm and Sinclair Concrete, are getting the final permits and details in place to open a cold-storage business in the Penryn packing shed. “We’re hoping it will help with small cattle and sheep producers, so they can produce a few more head a year if they have a place to store it,” Karin Sinclair said this week. Bringing the old packing shed back into agricultural production is the result of a two-year collaboration with the High Sierra Resource Conservation & Development Council, Sierra Economic Development District, Small Farms Advisors Office and the Placer County Office of Economic Development, said spokeswoman Nancyjo Riekse via press release. “It was a great example of how federal, state, local and private partners can come together and be flexible and innovative to benefit the region’s agricultural community,” said William Bennett, president of High Sierra Resource Conservation & Development Inc. A couple of surveys conducted by agriculture advisers showed a lot of interest in having a cold-storage facility, Sinclair said. “Farmers have expressed the need to have a cold storage facility for more than two years,” project coordinator Kay Joy Barge said in a press release. “When the private, local, state and federal partnership came together in January, the facility is opening five months later.” The Sinclairs raise sheep and chickens and sell eggs at their 12-acre farm in Penryn. This fall they’re adding beef, Karin Sinclair said. It all started with their children’s interest in agriculture. “When our daughter turned 9, she got into 4-H and took on a sheep project,” Sinclair said. “The first one we purchased was pregnant and we’ve gone from there.” When son Mathew joined 4-H, his interest was cattle. “He’s done very well,“ Sinclair said. “He has his own breeding program. He has seven cows due to calve any day. He helps with vaccinations and tagging. He’s used them in Future Farmers of America projects and sells them through the fair auction.” Opening the cold storage facility just made common sense for the Sinclairs. Their concrete business is already located in the packing shed. “We had talked about refurbishing it and getting it back into the community,” Karin Sinclair said. Eventually they’d also like to have a juicing facility. “There are a couple of growers who want to use their fruit for juice — pomegranates or mandarins,” she said. “It would be good for sauces.” A juicing facility would have been very useful last year during the big freeze when the mandarins were falling on the ground, she explained — “They could have stored them there for juice.” But in order to do that, the Sinclairs must construct a sterile facility with a double room. The cold storage unit, another necessary part of any juicing facility, should be up and running by early June. “My intention is for producers to be able to store their excess produce or meat,” she said. “But it is also for consumers who want to purchase a half a beef and have no place to put it. They’ll be able to rent a section of the cold storage unit.” The facility has shelves and will be divided into square-foot sections. The monthly rental charge will be 75 cents per square foot for refrigeration and $1.75 per square foot for freezer space. Currently PlacerGrown stores items in the packing shed and the Meat Buyers Club also has space there. The Sinclairs plan to install solar panels at some point to cut down on electricity costs. Hours of operation of the cold storage facility will be set based on customers’ needs. It will then open on an on-call basis, Sinclair said. Reach Gloria Young at