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High tunnel rises at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

Reposted from Cornell Horticulture blog:

A production-scale high tunnel is rising at Dilmun Hill Student Farm, adjacent to the Cornell University campus. Once complete, it will not only extend the growing season for the farm, but also serve as an educational resource for the many classes that visit the farm.  A high tunnel production workshop series is being planned in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension that will draw on the knowledge and experience of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates across many different departments.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) staff, along with members of the Dilmun Hill Steering Committee, have been laying the groundwork at the high tunnel site since early spring, grading the land, spreading and incorporating compost, and installing the foundation. This past Wednesday afternoon, they made short work of installing the frame. (See time-lapse video.)

The high tunnel was made possible by the Toward Sustainability Foundation grant program. Undergraduate Steering Committee member and former Dilmun Hill Farm Manager Alena Hutchinson (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, ’18) secured funding for the tunnel, and worked with builder Howard Hoover of Penn Yan, N.Y., to design a custom tunnel to meet the specialized needs of small- and medium-sized growers in Upstate New York.

The tunnel will feature a solar-powered, automated sidewall system designed by Hutchinson and fellow undergraduate engineering students to make ventilating the structure easier.

Another innovative feature of the high tunnel:  It is mounted on rails, so that the tunnel can be easily moved between two different growing areas.  Along with increasing production capacity, this design has environmental benefits, such as making crop rotation possible and allowing rain to leach salt from soil, avoiding the salt build up that can be a problem with stationary high tunnels.

Detailed design plans and assembly manuals for all aspects of the tunnel will be available upon the tunnel’s completion. For questions and/or if you want to be involved in the project, contact Alena Hutchinson (amh345@cornell.edu).

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail (lower right) that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and CUAES Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

McKay secures ridgepole.

McKay secures ridgepoles.


Update [2017-07-29]

On June 28, while still under construction, the tunnel took it’s first trip, traveling from a fallow area to an area newly planted with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Relationships drive Cornell Vegetable Program’s reach

Hoover speaks with Cornell Vegetable Program specialist Judson Reid '94 in a climate-controlled high tunnel. (Photo: R.J. Anderson/Cornell Cooperative Extension)

Hoover speaks with Cornell Vegetable Program specialist Judson Reid ’94 in a climate-controlled high tunnel. (Photo: R.J. Anderson/Cornell Cooperative Extension)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-05-09]:

Commercial vegetable grower Nelson Hoover does not own a car, a computer or a degree. In fact, the 28-year-old never attended high school. But for over a decade, Hoover, a member of the Groffdale Mennonite Conference in Penn Yan, New York, has been one of the Cornell Vegetable Program’s (CVP) most trusted research partners.

A Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) regional agriculture team, CVP assists farmers in 12 western New York counties – the largest vegetable-producing region in the state – by helping them apply Cornell research and expertise to their local growing operations.

Two of those counties, Yates and Seneca, are home to the highest concentration of Old Order communities in the state. As their populations grows, the Amish and Mennonite influence on the area’s agriculture markets has followed suit. They now operate 99 percent of dairy farms in the area and own of one of the region’s largest produce auctions, which has grown by $185,000 annually over the last 12 years.

Working to maximize vegetable quality and output in Yates and Seneca counties is Cornell-trained horticulturist and CVP extension vegetable specialist Judson Reid ’94. Specializing in small-farm operations and high tunnel growing, Reid has become a trusted agricultural voice – even within those sects not typically receptive to outside influence.

Read the whole article.

Cornell Vegetable Program Delivers 46% Net Increase for Cooperating High Tunnels

high-tunnel-tomatoes-basketsx400From Cornell Vegetable Program Highlights (January – March 2016):

The CVP recently completed a NYFVI sponsored project examining nutrient management for high tunnel crops. Vegetable farmers participating in this project improved their ability to manage soil and nutrients through intensive soil, water and foliar analyses and then implemented CVP Best Management Practices.

The project team conducted 35 educational outreach events reaching over 1,100 growers with 24 farms cooperating on intensive sampling. 15 farms that provided economic data, documented an average net high tunnel income increase of $4,931.88, or 46%. Tunnel area increased by 16%, representing new capital investment of $32,050 in 12,820 square feet of high tunnel space erected during the project period.

Participating growers reported at the end of the project that they will erect an additional 41,156 square feet of tunnel space within the next two years, an investment of over $100,000. Continued funding has been sought from NYFVI, SCBG and the Towards Sustainability Foundation.

Research helping northern N.Y. high tunnel growers extend harvest, sales into fall

Northern New York grower Rob Hastings holds a handful of raspberries grown in one of his Rivermede Farms high tunnels.

Northern New York grower Rob Hastings holds a handful of raspberries grown in one of his Rivermede Farms high tunnels.

From Kara Dunn karalynn@gisco.net:

While consumers are enjoying fresh, locally-grown sweet tomatoes and crispy greens from Northern New York’s market gardeners, the growers are drawing on Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP)-supported high tunnel research to extend production and sales into the fall season.

“Each high tunnel grower has his or her own crop plan and growing conditions. The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program season extension projects provide regional growers with first-hand and shared experiences to help them achieve maximum efficiency and profitability,” says project co-leader Amy Ivy, director of Cornell Cooperation Extension Clinton County, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Regional growers have been applying NNYADP project results on how to graft tomatoes for high tunnel production, how to use seeding date to influence the production of three different greens, and the benefit of regular soil nutrient testing.

Tomatoes are a popular and profitable tunnel crop for fresh market vegetable growers.

“Grafting desirable tomato varieties onto vigorous, disease-resistant rootstock has shown significant results. All four varieties we graft-tested in 2010 outgrew and outproduced the non-grafted plants well into October,” says Cornell University Horticulture Professor H.C. Wien.

Trials with spinach, arugula and lettuce crops at the Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm at Willsboro, N.Y., evaluated different seeding dates: August 21, September 5 and September 30 for spinach, arugula and lettuce. The crops were seeded in a high tunnel, a movable high tunnel, and outdoors with low cover.

“Planting date had a major influence on the productivity of the greens under all three season extension systems. A two-week difference in planting date reduced the number of harvests by half. The data illustrates the importance of a mid-late August planting to optimize fall-winter greens production under Northern New York growing conditions,” says Baker Farm Manager Michael Davis.

The trials also show that the quality of the greens could be maintained longer, without heat, by adding an additional low cover over the crop in the high tunnel. The crop could be harvested once it thawed during the day through December.

Fresh market grower and poultry producer Beth Spaugh-Barber of Rehoboth Homestead in Peru, N.Y., participated with the evaluation of foliar nutrient testing. The testing provides valuable information on the level of nutrients in plant leaves during the growth period.

Spaugh says, “Whenever the local and state Cornell Cooperative Extension staff visit the farm as part of a project, they notice things I have ignored and share really helpful ideas that improve our production and bottom line. The trips we made as part of this Northern New York project to farms that have been using high tunnels longer were nuts-and-bolts learning experiences.”

Adam Hainer of Juniper Hill Farm has created his own unique movable high tunnel that rolls on pipes at his farm in Wadhams, N.Y.. He says, “These regional research trials allow growers to see results before we invest in a system that may not have any potential for payback or profit. When the results are positive, we can invest confidently and have a regional resource to help us manage the new enterprise.”

Twelve growers attending one of the project’s farmer-to-farmer season extension learning workshops indicated an interest in adding high tunnels to their farms in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties.

High tunnel production information for northern New York growers is online at http://www.nnyagdev.org/_horticulturecrops.htm#HIGH_TUNNEL_PRODUCTION.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program conducts research in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The New York State Legislature and Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station are program funders.

See also: Cornell High Tunnels website.

Grow ginger in high tunnels

An article in the NE-SARE newsletter, Ginger: An ancient crop in the new world, describes a Farmer Grant project comparing growing ginger in a greenhouse or a high tunnel.

“‘Using high tunnels was a drastic profit improvement over growing in the greenhouse,’ Bahret [the grant recipient] says. In fact, the greenhouse ginger lost money while the hoop house ginger earned almost $3,000 in income over expenses, mostly because of differences in heat and labor.”

View images of ginger production and read more at Bahret’s farm at the Old Friends Farm website.

Read more about the project through the SARE project database: Year 1 | Year 2

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