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Nebraska retiree uses earths’s heat to grow oranges in snow

Winter temperatures in Alliance, Nebraska can drop to -20°F, but retired mailman Russ Finch grows oranges in his backyard greenhouse without paying for heat. Instead, he draws on the earth’s stable temperature (around 52 degrees in his region) to grow warm weather produce- citrus, figs, pomegranates – in the snow.

Finch first discovered geothermal heating in 1979 when he and his wife built it into their 4400-square-foot dream home to cut energy costs. Eighteen years later they decided to add a 16’x80′ greenhouse in the backyard. The greenhouse resembles a pit greenhouse (walipini) in that the floor is dug down 4 feet below the surface and the roof is slanted to catch the southern sun.

To avoid using heaters for the cold Nebraska winter nights, Finch relies on the warm underground air fed into the greenhouse via plastic tubing under the yard and one fan.

Finch sells a Greenhouse in the Snow report detailing his work with his “geo-air” greenhouses and says anyone can build a market-producing greenhouse for about $25,000 or “less than the cost of a heat system on a traditional greenhouse”.

  • Janice Gipson

    The links do not work for either the plans or the report, either from your website or from the YouTube video posting. The Greenhouse in the Snow site looks like its never been completed and last update is 2013. A lot can change in five years! I’ll search for this but would really like my payments to go to the originators if that’s still possible. Do you have a live link to either the plans (preferred) or the report, or updates on where/who this project is with now?

    • Jeremy Morton
    • tony

      scroll down, I thought the same thing until i realized the the bar on the right can scroll down quite a way. Someone should probably help him update his website a bit.

  • kirstendirksen

    Hello Janice, I just tried the links and they work for me. You can also go directly here: http://greenhouseinthesnow.com/index.html There is also a citrus in the snow site, but Russ just told me this week that this greenhouse in the snow site is the most current version. Best of luck. Kirsten