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

  • Published on May 27, 2018
  • Winter temperatures in Alliance, Nebraska can drop to -20°F (the record low is -40°F/C), 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 "Citrus 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".
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Comments • 3 631

  • greenhouseinsnow
    greenhouseinsnow Year ago +1616

    Russ Finch: Thank you Kirsten for the great video it raised so many questions I thought I needed to answer some.
    Pollination: There area lot of misconnects about pollination while most plants can benefit not many require pollination to produce. While citrus might benefit they set so much fruit that they abort until they can support what remains. The only plant we need to hand pollinate is the pomegranate.
    Bees: If there are bees in the area they will find their way into the unit through the open ventilation windows.
    Co2: Is overblown there seems to be no shortage in our system we have trouble keeping growth under control.
    Latitude: We have learned so much about latitude with this project mostly it isn't reliable for gaging heat and cold. The important thing is local climates. South of Oslo Norway is around 57° latitude where we are 42° but their winter average is 10° warmer than ours. The ocean and lake effects influence also.
    52°: Lots of confusion about the temperature of the earth in relation to the greenhouse temp. The blower for the earth geo only turns on at 50° or below until then the warmth from the pit radiates heat and during the day in the middle of a February day, outside temp. 20° if the sun is out the temp at 6' will be around 80° and the peak of the unit will get to over 124°.
    Radon: WE have never heard of radon problems probably because the solution for radon is ventilation and that is our whole system.
    Break even point; We have 41 units all over the U.S. and Canada now and the oldest units growing commercially are less than 3 years old so we have little information. The typical 96' greenhouse for local growing will cost about $24,000 if you have access to a backhoe and can do the labor. That size unit can support around 18 citrus trees that will take up 20% of the growing area. The citrus will produce fruit from the first year and be what we would call mature ( about 100# per tree) in from 6 to 12 years. The rest of the growing area can be used for any crop and should produce income to pay for the unit before the citrus is mature.
    Grants: We have shied away from outside money after being approved for a $70,000 grant from the University of Nebraska only to have them decide to "not release the funds" after we had started to build. At that time we scaled back on the size and financed it our self.
    Insects; Very little problem with insects after the first 3 years when we stopped using toxic chemicals and started using Horticulture oil (ultra refined mineral oil) it is safe and effective we just tree the problem area not the entire unit.
    Agriculture needs to grow this way; This type growing can produce some of our table vegetables and fruit but there is no way we can produce enough to replace conventional farming.
    We have skeptics that say this won't work when I'm told that I pick an orange and try to figure where I went wrong while I eat it.

    • Dragon Warrior
      Dragon Warrior 4 days ago

      @lynn lowmeistre I couldn't agree more!

    • Jay J
      Jay J 7 days ago

      I've not read through all the comments, but could you have 2 greenhouses run on a single set of tubes? Or would each one need it's own set? (kinda what I'm thinking). Thank You!!!!!!

    • lynn lowmeistre
      lynn lowmeistre 13 days ago

      Thank-You...with all my heart and soul. As i was saying to another person," You breath life,hope and inspiration to us!" Sustainable living is the only path to the future and the greed and politics of a profit driven industry will surly destroy us and our planet as we have known it. "Big-Corps",what i have dubbed big industries want us dependent on the products that,only they,have to offer and they have their fingers into everyone's pocket...another reason you were refused financial help as this could get out of control and damage profit,shipping... ... a small chain reaction can put a large dent in profit. My papa always used to talk about,"The Power Of The Purse-String," how we as a people have so much more power than we can imagine just by standing together in great numbers and demonstrating with closed wallets and purses,taking back our money (financial power)and then watch them (for a change) say,"What can i do for you sir/mam." We need a change more than ever,right now, to start becoming communities once again where people help and look out for each other forming neighborhoods of neighbors where you form an inner social network of families based on a local sustainable platform. This type of platform would do far more than feed the body but minds and souls would also be enriched as children born and raised in such in simple basic settings are far more secure and tend to flourish and form a desire to carry these basic fundamental ideas forward to the next generation building from this platform of local sustainable/family which tends toward keeping in check the desire for self-serving. Thank-You Once Again Mr.Finch, You and others like you are the true heroes as you sure are mine. L.L.

    • Becca g
      Becca g 27 days ago

      @HappyAgony Go into cave systems the temperature stays consistent throughout the year.

    • Simon HomeintheEarth
      Simon HomeintheEarth Month ago

      I have earth tubes in my build (8 inch double wall, 250 ft long) and get asked the same thing about Radon all the time. I give the same answer. Earth tubes are about ventilation and ventilation is the solution to Radon problems, so why would you expect them to cause a Radon problem?

  • Jeremy Benson
    Jeremy Benson Day ago

    That is genius. You could do the same thing to heat an off grid, above ground, bunker. 1c is better than below freezing, but there's still hypothermia. I guess build inner walls and insulate them. wear thermal/arctic gear inside. And set up a solar panel system to plan for heat while inside. Don't forget to run your wires up through the slab and bury them. I wonder if you could just burry 6 tin tanks the size of propane cylinders, or even convert propane cylinders, right under the bunker. Just run the pipes up from the tops of them. The earth would heat the cylinders and push warm air up into the bunker. You could test it without building the bunker. Simply bury a cylinder below the frost level with your pipe sticking up and put a thermometer in it. See what you have for a temperature at ground level.
    I can see why the government wouldn't fund in this. I said in another comment this would be like funding ice cubes. All he did was run pipes underground, anyone could do it. And all for vitamin c? Just grow broccoli in season. I can see why Nebraska turned this down. If they wanted to be ergonomic and stop using tractors, they wouldn't have to come close to needing this to do it. It's funny, he's talking about economics, but missed that we could minimize the cost to the cost of a bag of broccoli seeds?

  • Bidwell Canyon Farm
    Bidwell Canyon Farm 2 days ago

    This is fantastic! Great video KD!

  • foreverzeta
    foreverzeta 2 days ago

    I love this man.. I want one like him...!

  • Linda Baker
    Linda Baker 2 days ago

    This is absolutely brilliant! Has anyone done any research into building living spaces, what a great solution to our homeless problem - create homes, jobs and security all at once - Bravo Mr Finch, you are an inspiration!

  • RT 1979
    RT 1979 2 days ago +1

    I wonder if this could be used for post industrial cites that have food deserts like Flint Michigan for example.

  • Maarten Blaauboer
    Maarten Blaauboer 3 days ago

    Ended up here thanks to Joe Scott mentioning this project. Thanks for sharing, very inspiring!

  • Robert Ebersold
    Robert Ebersold 5 days ago

    At first I thought this was being narrated by Johnny Cash.....

  • brokebastard
    brokebastard 6 days ago

    I hope he's teaching other farmers in the area, because if he gives this info to any company, they will just patent it and hoard the knowledge.

  • lisa chubrilo
    lisa chubrilo 7 days ago

    At the end of the piping under the ground, is the end of the pipe butted up against dirt? Or do you have like a basement or open space that the pipe runs into?

  • Jay J
    Jay J 7 days ago

    Frickin Awesomeness!!! Love this!

  • R Mel
    R Mel 7 days ago

    I am in WI and we have a real high water table what can I do? Thanks

  • Roger Dale
    Roger Dale 7 days ago

    I thought it was going to be super high tech, but totally do-able. Only 8 ft deep geothermal. And in NW Nebraska...
    Off topic, looking to the east of Alliance on Maps.googoo, there is what looks like evidence of massive ice age flooding leaving a ripple effect for a couple hundred miles. Possibly from the Younger/Dryas event.

  • Mary M
    Mary M 8 days ago

    God bless this man, what a reservoir of wisdom. We need more visionaries like him.

  • Will McKinty
    Will McKinty 9 days ago +1

    “The proof is in the pudding” - People like Russ Finch are desparately trying to help us see the way...

  • izinau
    izinau 14 days ago

    How can I get plans or the steel frames for the structure?

  • MillerTime East
    MillerTime East 14 days ago

    Wow I can’t believe Johnny Cash is becoming a gardener in Nebraska!

  • ChevyHeavy11
    ChevyHeavy11 14 days ago

    smart old man- a dying breed

  • ChevyHeavy11
    ChevyHeavy11 14 days ago

    retirement what's that?

  • C Albert
    C Albert 15 days ago

    that's a great building profile

  • Burton Claus
    Burton Claus 15 days ago

    Awesome concept; I use the same concept in Canada for heating my home except I use water as a medium to collect/dispose of heat and high density polyethylene pipe (usually 1 to 2") for transporting it to my heat pump inside for radiant floors - again with pipe but only 1/2" - embedded in concrete beautifully polished and colored. Water uses much less energy to transport much more heat in a much smaller pipe with a much smaller circulating pump (about 250 times smaller!) Now I just need a greenhouse!

  • Jesper Hviid
    Jesper Hviid 16 days ago


  • hambonerz
    hambonerz 18 days ago +2

    This man is pure Nebraska matter of fact, practical, understated.

  • Niclas Jannßen
    Niclas Jannßen 18 days ago

    not a native speaker, can someone explain to me, what Russ means when he says "they 75 foot out, 75 across and 75 back in". I imagine a rectangle unterground right beside (but not under) the greenhouse. Did I get that right?

  • Niclas Jannßen
    Niclas Jannßen 18 days ago +1

    Straight D Student :D Ha, this one made me think "oh boy maybe hes like me and this is what i should do" :D

  • Eric Buchannan
    Eric Buchannan 19 days ago

    So is Russ teaching classes?

  • Rebecca Pederson Hessey

    7:20 Wow!

  • elizabeth johnson
    elizabeth johnson 20 days ago

    Amazing man, long may you live.. No doubt people would have looked down their noses at you for being Postal worker..

  • Dave Lopez
    Dave Lopez 21 day ago

    why does the tubing have to run for such long distances?, I don't get that

  • Martin Cote
    Martin Cote 21 day ago

    Amazing project ! We need to start building greenhouses like this all over North America. Thanks for sharing ! 😀👍

  • santiagobenites
    santiagobenites 21 day ago +4

    I'd like to hear him say 'hello, I'm Johnny Cash'.

  • IPman77
    IPman77 22 days ago


  • Dragon Slayer
    Dragon Slayer 23 days ago


  • matermark
    matermark 23 days ago

    What spacing do you use on the verticals and what's the absolute smallest you can build it? I have a small 6Lx6Wx8T Lean-to that I use for hardening heirloom tomatoes & peppers but was considering a hoophouse or something, but I'm in a city and my yard is small & runs N-S, not E-W. I only have about 20ft width of the back of my house. My Lean-to is similar shape but the front is 4ft vertical. It uses Triplewall polycarbonate. It's not "finished", one end is same triplewall, door end isn't finished (open--no door.) If the sheets are 72" widths, I may only have enough room for four tubes/channels. How long are the polycarb sheets? Maybe I can run back to back North-South? Any suggestions?

  • M She
    M She 23 days ago

    Astounding. Does he have bees?

  • Cynthia Sanchez
    Cynthia Sanchez 24 days ago

    I think this is an amazing legacy you have created and fine tuned. This is very inspirational for geothermal use and gardening, farming and use of our time in retirement. I am amazed and inspired by your accomplishments. I just decided to watch this video during my lunch break but wow what a difference this could make in my life and in my family's life. Thank you so much for making this video.

  • Bonnie Hoke-Scedrov
    Bonnie Hoke-Scedrov 26 days ago +1

    Fantastic! I’m so excited about the work this retired postal employee is doing in the plains. Why doesn’t everybody know about this?!

  • Srinivas Prodduturi
    Srinivas Prodduturi 27 days ago

    Is it possible to get the specs from the owner to build this in a small private backyard? How much would it cost?

  • SeasideMan
    SeasideMan 27 days ago

    A wonderfull under taking by any standard. Good luck.

  • Prairie Adventures
    Prairie Adventures 27 days ago

    Do you have plans or a book? How do you get 230 feet of tubing 8' under?

  • honkfathermax
    honkfathermax 28 days ago

    dude sounds like noam chomsky

  • GregJoshuaW
    GregJoshuaW 28 days ago +1

    Does anyone know if it mattered between pushing or pulling air? I imagine in a closed system like this it should be the same force required either way?

  • c.a. greene
    c.a. greene 28 days ago

    I grow lemons outside, in Canada!
    Lemons need cold winter's to sour, but not snow...SSI in bc on the west coast has wonderful micro climates around our shallow lakes ( heating up in our intense sunshine filled spring, fall and summers, and in winter gives us a warm fog at night that produces lovely lemons in time for Father's day each year!
    I have given many rooted clippings from my bushes over the years. One bad winter in 20 years killed my tree, or so I thought but it grew back after having 14 months of dormancy, now it sits inside a small greenhouse the size of a market tent used at our farmer market each winter to protect it,I'm not taking any chances!
    Most of my neighbors have them against the house and put Christmas lights on at night to keep them warm.
    Love your garden!

  • GabbishLee Gifted
    GabbishLee Gifted 29 days ago


  • Alma Miranda
    Alma Miranda Month ago

    Wow, I am speechless. What a blessed mind.

  • Gary Brinker
    Gary Brinker Month ago

    Well I guess we dont need California affter all...

  • Gospel Bearer
    Gospel Bearer Month ago

    Best farm ever!

  • Meaghan Hope
    Meaghan Hope Month ago +6

    Always pull air. “Force” is dispersed when something without shape - like air - is pushed. No force is lost when pulling.

    • Mike C amps
      Mike C amps 13 days ago

      Well considering a house HVAC system uses a squirrel cage fan......and the conventional thought of a fan is the propeller type fan. A tesla turbine is interesting too. My main concern is the tube being buried and the possibility of infection.....beasties taking hold in the tube and growing and then being vented out into the growing environment as a result. Obviously there are microbes everywhere and in the air....nothing is completely sterile in a natural environment....but that tube will be a potential dark and potentially moist place which would be a great breeding there would need to be counter measures. You wouldn't want to compound the normal infectious agents you have to battle in a green house should something take hold in a growing season......which means breaking out the chemicals. I think the basic premise is to be as natural as possible if it meets the criterial of organic.....or at least pesticide free for purity aspects. But I do love the prospects of the natural cooling effect or warming effect depending on the season.

    • Byron Houwens
      Byron Houwens 13 days ago

      May depend on where the fans are placed? It might be easier to push air with a fan from the top of the tube than to pull it from inside the tube underground, but I'm not sure how they've set it up here.

    • Mike C amps
      Mike C amps 28 days ago

      its an interesting situation.....I suppose an A & M college should step up to investigate and tweak things to get the most out of it. I just did a posting on a different presentation concerning rocket mass heaters. The efficiency ends up with an exhaust tat is theoretically pure.....just CO2 and water from the combustion. This isn't a car exhaust where they need a catalytic converter to achieve that.....and the opposite end of that with air pollution pre-cat days, today we have the CO2 problem. They created a CO2 pump in to the atmosphere.....times a few million pumps. But anyway, with the rocket mass heater on a farm exhausting CO2 out the end of the conduit......why not dump that in to a winter green house to create an optimal CO2 atmosphere for the greenhouse and photosynthesis and monitor and regulate the CO2 level`...… only exhaust during a burn with a rocket mass system which might be only a few hours to charge the mass with heat like you are charging a battery. The plant life would convert the CO2 to oxygen ultimately......its just determining the optimal ratio's..for the conversion. If you want to totally convert all the CO2 emissions then you need the appropriate amount of plant life and thus the size of the green house. But with a rocket mass heater....its just not the pass through with the exhaust to extract heat in to the could run water coils to heat water for pumping out in to the green house as auxiliary heating....there is a heat differential too that could power a sterling engine for a pump or run a generator to create electricity. Engineers don't design this way..... But being a farm, there is a big issue with biomass waste and what to do with it......obviously it would have to be dry to burn which could be possible since you only need to burn with a rocket mass in the cold temperatures. Sort of a big efficiency loop of sorts that would be virtually totally "GREEN" BUT going back to the humidity......its a green house so there will be water and evaporation and thus a humidity issue......its just solving the infection defect without using chemicals or something adverse...and low cost and simple without a lot of maintenance. You could use a HEPA filtration system for the air but that carries costs and upkeep. It could get complexed. The infection element is ever present, its just how to retard it and keep it in check so its not an issue where it destroys the crop or kills the trees or taints the harvest.

    • GregJoshuaW
      GregJoshuaW 28 days ago

      @Mike C amps I wonder if their humidity levels are so low that it dramatically curbs the mold issue. Interesting post.

    • Mike C amps
      Mike C amps Month ago

      I would probably substitute regular rigid poly piping rather than the flex black conduit...… could most likely pass something thru it to clean the passageway where as with the flex pipe....there are so many nooks and cranny' the poly pipe is white so it would be great with a sewer camera run thru it for inspection

  • Linda Cirillo
    Linda Cirillo Month ago

    he put in geothermal How far back, 45 yrs. so that's the seventies, im quite intrigued, that this idea came to him that far back, he worked for the post office,,, im finally starting to understand it.. You have to really sit and analyze it in your head, i wonder if a really small greenhouse, like 6 feet, by 12 feet (something like that),, would work does anyone know. it has to be 40 ft. long to work,, i think, and we have like no money,, any ideas welcome.

  • D Mitchell
    D Mitchell Month ago

    I just ordered the information kit from the greenhouseinsnow website. It is $49 and it includes:

    "A packet including information on how to construct our greenhouse kit, a primer on our greenhouses, all on a convenient flash drive, including lots of pictures for you to enjoy! The Information Packet is updated about every 6 months with new information we are learning since we started making greenhouses. 10-12 days for delivery. The Information Packet ships anywhere for free!"

    If you feel inspired by this gentleman as I did, even if you don't think you will ever build one, I hope you consider supporting his efforts and passing this information on to maybe your kids or grandkids. I have no affiliation with Russ, but I hope his vision is spread throughout the world.

  • D Mitchell
    D Mitchell Month ago

    He should be nominated as one of "CNN's Heroes" I hope someone close to him nominates him. How about you Kristen? Think of how many people have been influenced by Russ Finch.

  • Ace Halstead
    Ace Halstead Month ago

    Great video, thank you for sharing!!! I've been aware of your facility for years, have very much wanted to visit and chat with you, obviously have not yet... I certainly hope to do so, what kind of advance arrangements might be suggested or required?? I live only about 70 miles west of the NE-WY state line... Wishing you the best of success, always...

  • Svetla Nikolova
    Svetla Nikolova Month ago

    this is where you create a fund me page and give this dude some money to continue his work and train others to continue

  • YouSurf 2
    YouSurf 2 Month ago

    I need to go visit this guy.............. compare notes on my design ideas for a chinese greenhouse like this......... HIS is long.

  • Caleb Fischer
    Caleb Fischer Month ago

    13:48 The way he built that greenhouse was in the exact style that my grandpa built a dollhouse for my aunt. He's about the same age and lives in Nebraska. Very interesting!

  • Keith Anthony
    Keith Anthony Month ago

    Fantastic information! Such an interesting topic and the independence of your own food production! Logic and common sense is what this gentleman used to create these incredible green houses. thanks for sharing!

  • Pecker Wood
    Pecker Wood Month ago

    This video needs to be required watching for every living soul on the planet. We have know this as a technology for over 50 years. Humans have know about the power of geothermal heat for thousands of years and were JUST finally going wow. Mankind sure is stupid. :)

  • The,Awakened satan within christ

    Thats Why worms like it eigth feet deep living under good its warm in middle of winter.

  • at0M X
    at0M X Month ago

    I love this man. I have just become inspired

  • Dennis Buckley
    Dennis Buckley Month ago

    Remember your friend in Searchlight, Nv. You gave me the formula for the geothermal piping for my green house. Thank you.