As you drive along U.S. 281 just north of Blanco, TX, you’ll see a big pink tractor on the side of the highway. You’ll want to stop.
That well-known landmark signals that you’ve arrived at Pink Tractor Farms, a Central Texas haven for a wide variety of fresh produce, as well as Texas-made ice cream, pickles, cheeses, farm fresh eggs, mouth-watering baked goods (“made with lots and lots of butter”), and much more.
Opened earlier this year by Ashley and Logan Schnelle, Pink Tractor Farms aims to provide its customers with delicious food made the old-fashioned way.
“Everything tastes purty here,” says Ashley. “We do things the hard way, the way my grandma and grandpa used to do it.” That means the produce is organic and the other products are either made in-house or sourced from other local businesses that share this ethos. They’re also heavily involved in giving back to the community. They’ve donated more than 10,000 lbs of produce to local food banks in their first six months of operations alone.
Starting any sort of small business is hard work. But a business based on perishable foods has a unique set of needs. That includes cold storage.
When the Schnelles purchased Pink Tractor Farms, the only cold storage system in place was a couple of refrigerators. Given their plans to become a one-stop shop for fresh, local foods, Ashley knew “that just wasn’t going to cut it.”
They started looking at cold vaults, but quickly realized that the $7,000 to $8,000 price tag was “very far” out of their price range. “Even the used ones were crazy expensive,” Ashley said.
Then she had an idea.
Ashley comes from a family of hunters. Up until a few years ago, if the temperature was too warm to let an animal cure, they would have to put it into an ice chest. “It would get all slimy and nasty, plus you have to buy a whole bunch of ice.”
Fortunately, her dad discovered the CoolBot and they built their own walk-in cooler in a horse trailer. “We followed all the instructions that came with it. It was simple, and it worked perfectly. We’ve never had a problem with it. We’re able to hang up whatever we want without having to worry about it going below temperature or the system tripping or freezing up.” The family still uses it every year for deer season.
Ashley decided to implement the same solution on the farm. They insulated a back room of their shop and installed a CoolBot. Their new walk-in cooler is about 5’x15’ with a 6’ ceiling and they keep the temperature at a steady 39°.
The total cost of the build was just under $2,000. That’s just about one-quarter of what a traditional cold storage system would have run them. “It saved us the whole summer,” Ashley said. “Best of all, we have a walk-in cooler and didn’t have to pay for a cold vault.”
The CoolBot was originally designed for exactly this purpose — to help small farmers succeed by providing affordable cold storage. We’re thrilled that now, more than 10 years later, it’s still doing exactly that.
So, the next time you find yourself in central Texas, plan a drive along the 281 and a stop in at the big pink tractor. Be sure to take your appetite so you can taste some of that fresh Texas-made goodness for yourself.