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Explore the Benefits of High Tunnels


Published: Friday, August 11, 2017

Are you looking for ways to increase the economic stability of your farm or to sell fresh vegetables right up to Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about getting an early start on raising produce in the spring? If so, a high tunnel may be a great option to increase the productivity of your garden or farm operations.

Purdue Extension and Indiana University are collaborating to offer two field days featuring high tunnels, geared towards Hoosier farmers who own or manage specialty crop operations and are interested in using high tunnels. The events will be hosted Aug. 15 at the Pinney Purdue Agricultural Center in Wanatah and Sept. 27 at the Hamilton County Extension Office and Full Hand Farm in Noblesville.

High tunnels are similar to greenhouses except they are heated solely by passive solar energy and cooled solely by opening sidewalls or roof vents. The low-cost structures protect plants from adverse weather and low temperatures, making it possible for farmers to increase the quality and yield of their crops. Farmers using high tunnels are able to extend the growing season earlier in the spring and later in the fall. As a result, they can produce more fresh food while increasing their economic stability.

A collaborative research team from Indiana University and Purdue University evaluated the farm-level impacts of high tunnel use throughout Indiana. The study was designed to gather more insights on successful high tunnel management. The team will present their research findings during the field day events. Also, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will explain the opportunities available to Hoosier farmers through the High Tunnel System Initiative.

The High Tunnel System Initiative offers a cost-share incentive for Hoosier farmers to obtain a high tunnel for their farm. The program is offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) managed by the NCRS to improve plant and soil quality, reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff, and increase the availability of fresh vegetables and fruits for local food markets.

Each event will offer educational programming and opportunities for networking and discussion of issues related to growing vegetables and other specialty crops in high tunnels.

Pinney Purdue Vegetable and High Tunnel Field Day is Aug. 15 from 5-8:30 p.m. (CDT) at the Pinney Purdue Agricultural Center, 11402 S. County Line Road, Wanatah.

Registration can be done by visiting http://tinyurl.com/yc5lqvez or by calling 219/386-5232. For more information, contact Kym Schwinkendorf at kschwink@purdue.edu or 219/386-5232.

The field day at Pinney Purdue Agricultural Center will feature tours of tomato production in moveable high tunnels, using both conventional and organic management systems. The event also will include walking tours of sweet corn and pumpkin variety trials, an overview of research findings about the opportunities available through high tunnels, and information about the NRCS program. Attendees will learn about managing pollinators; low-cost high tunnel structures for the home gardener; irrigation solutions; site and structure considerations for new high tunnel users; and finding, preserving and preparing fresh produce. Private applicator recertification credits (PARP) are available. This event includes a dinner and sweet corn variety tasting.

The Purdue Beginning Farmer Program/Full Hand Farm Tour is Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT) at the Hamilton County Extension office (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), 2003 Pleasant St, Noblesville. and Full Hand Farm (1:30-3:30 p.m.), 3844 State Rd. 13 North, Noblesville.

Registration is available at http://bit.ly/2puUV4I. For more information, contact James Wolff at 260/481-6434 or jmwolff@purdue.edu; or Analena Bruce at 412/716-5040 or ana bruce@indiana.edu.

This fall event, which is part of the Purdue Beginning Farmer Program, includes educational workshops on top considerations for site and high tunnel structure selection, and advice on managing pests that are common in high tunnels. During an afternoon tour at Full Hand Farm, attendees will observe a successful high tunnel operation that utilizes moveable high tunnel systems. Full Hand Farm is a diverse vegetable farm that produces winter salad greens and a variety of other specialty crops. Lunch will be provided to pre-registrants. Registration is limited.

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