Sir Francis Drake High School's insulated cold frame at the University of California’s White Mountain Research Station (elevation 12,470’)
A cold frame is a miniature greenhouse. From 2008 to 2015 ours was higher than any other test plot, greenhouse, cold frame, farm, or garden in California. In fact, it was probably the highest cultivated place in all of North America.
Why did we do this? To extend our Mars Colony Project! Colonists on Mars or the Moon will have to grow plants for food & oxygen, and compost waste. The White Mountain Research Station is the most Mars-like place we can easily get to. It is bitterly cold most of the year, is very dry, has strong winds, and the air is about 2/3rds as thick as it is at sea level. We are under no illusions that growing food in space will be easy. It takes at least 700 square meters of cropland to support one person on Earth -and that's without any meat, fish, milk or eggs.
If this sounds crazy, we have distinguished company:
Part of our 2009 harvest from the cold frame
Drake Parents: Dorcy Brownback, Greg Gabel, Ray Goebel, Mark Knowles, Frank Marrero, Rich Melbostad ,John Scopazzzi, Jonathan Sicroff, Steve Tognini
Drake Teachers: Mary Buchanan (Science), Kay Cavan (English), Cooper Clark (Science), John Hayden (Science), Lori Martz (Math), Jack Sims (Art), Michael Wing (Science)
Our cold frame specifications:
Dr. Joel Ransom and Mr. Chad Deplazes, extension agronomists at North Dakota State University, for sending us a particularly cold-hardy and short strain of winter wheat called CDC Falcon.
Dr. Dan Biggerstaff of WestBred, LLC and Dr. Fernando Guillen-Portal of Barkley AG Enterprises, LLP, for advice on choosing and obtaining cold-hardy crops to plant and for sending us camalina seed.
Dr. David Brenner, Curator in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System, United States Department of Agriculture and Iowa State University, for sending us specially selected seeds of quinoa and chenopodium.
Dr. Dan Hane, agronomist at Oregon State University, for advice on selecting appropriate strains of potatoes.
Dr. John Bamberg, U.S. Potato Genebank, United States Department of Agriculture, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for sending us cold-hardy potato stocks.
Mr. Brad Katuna and Mr. David Reid, Engineering Academy, Sir Francis Drake High School, for help with construction of the cold frame.
Ms. Jennifer Upshaw and Mr. Alan Dep of the Marin Independent Journal for writing an article on the project.
Mr. Don Drake and Ms. Liz Seabury, our Principals, for their support and confidence in us.
This project was supported by generous grants from the PG&E Solar Schools Program, the Drake Fund, the Toshiba America Foundation, the California Fertilizer Foundation and the Amgen Corporation's Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence.
This project was inspired by a talk given at Drake High school in 2007 by Dr. Pascal Lee, Chariman of the Mars Institute, and Principal Investigator of the NASA Haughton Mars Project in the Canadian arctic.
Michael Wing is also indebted to the Toyota International Teacher Program for sending him on a study tour to the Galapagos Islands, which included a visit to a demonstration farm on Isla Santa Cruz. Many of the preliminary ideas about the project came to him during that trip.