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Reach new heights with high tunnels!

May 13, 2011

Interior view of high tunnel. Carrots and spinach in center, beans and peas on trellis on sides. All ready for harvest, early May, central AR.

There are a couple of high tunnel workshops coming up where you can put your hands to work constructing a high tunnel and learn about how to grow in high tunnels – which crops work best, considerations for high tunnel production, economics of high tunnel production and food safety issues.  UA-PB is hosting a free Sustainable Vegetable Production workshop on May 23, 2011 beginning at 9:30 at the Agriculture Demonstration Outreach Center in Marianna.  Drs Barry Colley and Obadiah Njue and Ms. Iris Crosby will be providing instruction on high tunnel construction, vegetable production and food safety.  Registration, and questions, can be direction to Ms. Iris Crosby by May 19 at 870-395-1521,

On June 17, 2011 there will be another high tunnel production and construction workshop at the Southwest Research & Extension Center in Hope AR.  This will be another opportunity to get a better understanding of the construction process and learn about production issues, as well as the economics of producing under high tunnels. The details for this workshop are still being fleshed out but I will provide more info when they are finalized.

High tunnels have been receiving a lot of attention in recent years and for good reason. NRCS has even come out with a pilot program as part of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer Know Your Food local food initiative to provide financial assistance for growers wanting to construct high tunnels. You can read about the national program, here, and find information on Arkansas’s NRCS-high tunnel program, here.

Summer squash in homemade high tunnel, May 3, central AR. Note, sticky traps for monitoring pests.

High tunnels are gaining a following because they allow for vegetables/fruits/flowers/herbs to be produced earlier and later than the normal production season, sometimes even year-round depending on the crop.  This means growers can bring in money from their farm products in months that are typically pretty lean on income. So in this way, high tunnels = economic development, which is a good thing!  Produce grown in high tunnels is often of higher quality because it doesn’t get rained on (or hailed on) and is protected from the wind.  High tunnel production is not without extra management issues, however. Managing heat and soil moisture are two especially important issues. High tunnels can heat up quickly on a sunny winter or early spring day.  We’ve found that when the sun is shining and outside temps are 50F, the tunnels must be vented.  Soil moisture must also be closely monitored since there is no rainfall in the tunnels. Mulches such as weed-free straw can help conserve soil moisture.

Look for more information and workshops from the UA in the future. And below are several links to more information on high tunnel production and food safety/good ag practices, which we will be hearing a lot more about in the future with the passing of the Food Safety Modernization act this past winter.

High Tunnel Resources


 Food Safety Modernization Act information:

Food Safety & Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

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