How did you become interested in high tunnel production?
What is unique about high tunnel production?
One of the most effective tools that organic growers have is the use of cultural management techniques (i.e., non-chemical strategies); high tunnel are a great example of this! They provide a way to have more control over the micro-environment including temperature, rain, wind, etc. I think high tunnels have a lot of utility in both rural and urban settings because they concentrate growing efforts into small areas.
How can growers benefit from using high tunnel production?
Many growers find that high tunnels can improve crop quality and provide season extension opportunities which helps farmers capture and retain customers. Also, they are pleasant to work in when there is adverse weather outside.
Are high tunnels hard to construct or maintain?
Most farmers are good at construction and don’t talk too much about having problems building their high tunnels. Many companies will build their high tunnels for an additional fee. There are some good videos and photo journals online about the construction process. Sometimes site preparation and attention to issues such as leveling a field and drainage away from the tunnels are overlooked, although they are a very critical part of the construction process.
Is there an economic long-term benefit to using high tunnels?
There is a lot of variability in the literature on the amount of time to recover the initial investment. A lot will depend on the crops grown, one’s market, the grower’s skill level, and how these change over time. High tunnels require a fair amount of daily management and are different than any other type of production system so there does seem to be a learning curve and experimentation over the first couple of seasons that usually results in greater profitability over time.