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Heirloom vegetables to be auctioned by Sotheby’s

Several people have forwarded this article from the Wall Street Journal, Sotheby’s Puts Veggies on the Block.

“You all know of new produce auctions springing up, and you have probably heard of Sotheby’s auction house in New York City. You may not have heard of the meeting of the two, when Sotheby’s auctions vegetables next month,” says Chris Wien, who recognizes this as a sign that there are new and perhaps unimagined markets for unique, high-quality vegetables grown in high tunnels.

Sotheby’s Auction House, that purveyor of all things rare and fine, will soon dabble in something a little more pedestrian: vegetables.

But these aren’t your average garden greens. On the auction block are mixed crates filled with veggies such as Turkish Orange Eggplant, Lady Godiva Squash and Pink Banana Pumpkin. Rare, indeed. The asking price: $1,000 a crate.

The auction is part of a Sotheby’s benefit featuring heirloom vegetables—vintage varieties that aren’t commonly grown by the mass-produced agriculture of today. The Sept. 23 benefit, titled “The Art of Farming,” is the first of its kind by Sotheby’s and is being held in the auction house’s Manhattan showroom,

Read the whole article. Don’t miss the slideshow that features high tunnels at the McEnroe Farm in Millerton, N.Y.

Northern N.Y. Growers Expect Good Crops from High Tunnels This Fall

PRESS RELEASE: August 30, 2010
Contacts: Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County, 518-561-7450; or a grower in your area as listed at end of release

High tunnel farming equals low cost, high return for Northern New York fruit and vegetable growers, who are now selling their fresh produce at farmers markets throughout the region. The use of large, plastic-covered greenhouse-like structures allows the growers to extend their growing, harvest and sales seasons into fall and pays off in quality, yield and dollars, according to research trials funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP).

As part of a 2009 NNYADP project to help growers produce additional income after the summer farmers’ market excitement ends, eight farmers selected a fall crop and compared high tunnel production to field-grown results for that crop. The growers planted their crops in late August-early September and harvested into December.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County Executive Director Amy Ivy says, “These Northern New York Agricultural Development Program evaluation trials conducted on farms in the region produce valuable information to help growers throughout our six-county area produce the highest quality, highest yield crops. We learn more each year this type of research is done and our high tunnel growers are expecting good results from the extended 2010 fall season.”

One grower harvested two successive crops of high tunnel-grown salad greens compared to one month of field harvest. The difference in gross yield was $1.67 per square foot of high tunnel compared to $.42 per square foot of outside land. A grower with 360 square feet of high tunnel devoted to salad greens produced more than the grower could sell.

One grower who sold salad greens mix increased gross yield from the high tunnel crops to $2.43 per square foot calculated on an average of retail and wholesale sales.

Ivy says the research participants also share production experiences and tips on such factors as crop spacing and temperature, moisture and pest control.

“An interesting point from the 2009 evaluation trials conducted at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station at the E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro, N.Y., is that while late blight disease caused severe damage in field-grown tomatoes, the tomato plants grown in the high tunnel survived with minimal control measures,” Ivy says.

The Baker Farm also conducted high tunnel vs. field grown trials with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in 2009. Farm Manager Michael Davis says, “The strawberries protected by the high tunnel from the very wet weather last year produced fruit that was cleaner, had fewer blemishes, and was ready to pick one week earlier than the berries grown outside. The higher yields of nicer quality fruit that ripens earlier and continues to ripen for a longer time highlight the advantages of high tunnel production.”

Davis says the raspberries and blackberries produced exceptional yields in the high tunnel at the Baker Farm.

Earlier NNYADP high tunnel research showed that while the high tunnel production of the summer crops of cucumbers and tomatoes carries higher costs for trellising and pruning, the opportunity for return was $1.49 per square foot gross yield with cucumbers and $2.60 to $4.66 per square foot gross yield for wholesale and retail production of tomatoes.

For more information on high tunnel production, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office or visit the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

Project Leaders:

  • Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County, 518-561-7450
  • Michael Davis, E. V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm, 518-963-7492
  • H.C. Wien, Cornell University Department of Horticulture, 607-255-4570

Participating Farmers:

  • Clinton County: Beth Spaugh, Peru, 518-643-7822
  • Essex County: Adam Hainer, Westport/Wadhams, 518-962-4522; Rob Hastings, Keene Valley, 518-576-4686
  • Franklin County: Roseanne Gallagher, Malone, 518-481-5320
  • Jefferson County: Almeda Grandjean, Adams Center, 315-583-5660
  • St. Lawrence County: Dan Kent, Heuvelton, 315-344-6571

New York Growers Do Not Have a January 15 Deadline for USDA-NRCS High Tunnel assistance

Via Amy Ivy, Executive Director/Horticulture Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County

January 7, 2010

Update on the USDA-NRCS High Tunnels Assistance

From Dianna Power, NY Program Manager – NRCS

New York Growers Do Not Have a January 15 Deadline

USDA-NRCS in New York State has agreed to be a pilot state for offering a new practice for financial assistance, “Seasonal Tunnel System for Crops”. Seasonal Tunnels Systems are also commonly known as “Hoop Houses” or “High Tunnels”.

NRCS National Headquarters has released a national press release regarding the new opportunity. The press release is available thru the national NRCS website at as well as the NY NRCS website In addition, the USDA and the White House have also released a video regarding “Hoop Houses” that is available on the USDA YouTube website at

Program decisions for announcing this Seasonal Tunnel System pilot program in New York are not yet finalized and no deadlines have been set for NY farmers to enroll. NRCS is still finalizing the technical standards and criteria that the Season Tunnel Systems must meet to be eligible for funding.  The NY Seasonal Tunnel System pilot program with NY NRCS is still under development.  The Massachusetts NRCS has set January 15, 2010 as the deadline for Massachusetts farmers to signup for the Seasonal Tunnel Systems.  Here is a link to the Massachusetts press release announcing the Massachusetts deadline:  Once NY deadlines are set for the Season Tunnel Systems, NRCS NY will be sending out a press release notification.

NRCS programs are continuous sign-up programs.  As a result, interested applicants can sign-up at anytime at their local USDA Service Center.  Here is a link for NY producers to find their local USDA Service Center:   Local NY NRCS field staff can explain basic USDA program eligibility to interested producers so that applicants are eligible when the pilot program in NY is announced.

Additional Background Information regarding Seasonal Tunnels Systems:

A seasonal high tunnel is a greenhouse-like structure, at least 6 feet in height, which modifies the climate to create more favorable growing conditions for vegetable and other specialty crops grown in the natural soil beneath it. This pilot program will test the validity of potential conservation benefits.

Potential Resource Benefits of High Tunnels – Potential natural resource benefits from using tunnel structures include: (1) improve plant quality, (2) improve soil quality, and (3) improve water quality through methods such as reduced nutrient and pesticide transport.

Other NRCS Conservation Program Signup:

NY Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced an application deadline for New York farmers and private forestland landowners to be considered for our “typical” Conservation Program funding for 2010.  The deadline for other programs/focus areas not related to the Seasonal High Tunnel pilot program is January 22, 2010.  This includes Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).  For more information see our NY press release at:

For NRCS program questions for NY please contact Dianna Power at

USDA-NRCS support for high tunnels

From Chris Wien:

The Federal government is on the high tunnel bandwagon. The USDA, through its Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), is offering assistance to farmers who want to erect high tunnels. (See news release below.) Get details from your local NRCS office.

High tunnel visibility is also being enhanced by the following video, showing erection of salamanders in the White House garden.

Full news release:

3-Year Project To Verify Effectiveness Of High Tunnels In Natural Resource

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2009 ­ Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen
Merrigan today announced a new pilot project under the ‘Know Your
Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels
­ also known as hoop houses ­ to increase the availability of locally
grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Merrigan and other Obama
administration officials highlighted opportunities available for
producers in a video posted on USDA’s YouTube channel at, which shows high tunnels
recently installed in the White House garden.

“There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of
healthy, locally-grown crops – a win for producers and consumers,” said
Merrigan. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information
that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add
high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help
producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom

The 3-year, 38-state study will verify if high tunnels are effective in
reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending
the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to

Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic
sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move. High
tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady
incomes to farmers ­ a significant advantage to owners of small farms,
limited-resource farmers and organic producers.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide
financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality
Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the
Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high
tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as 5
percent of 1 acre.

Participating states and territories are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas,
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pacific Islands,
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico,
New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

To sign up or learn more about EQIP assistance for high tunnel projects,
contact a local NRCS office.

Project featured in NYFVI news release

Field day at  Norwich Meadows Farm NYFVI photo.From a 8/28/2009 news release from the New York Farm Viability Institute featuring Cornell High Tunnels project:

The opportunity to extend New York’s growing season, and produce crops that are bigger, better looking and higher yielding has many growers considering high tunnels.

“Living in the northeast, we have a lot of weather that is not good for growing crops. The more high tunnels I can put up, the more I will,’’ said Zaid Kurdieh, owner of Norwich Meadows Farm, in Norwich, NY. …

For the past few years, Cornell University has been conducting on-farm research trials to be able to make recommendations about production practices, crops, varieties, pest management, economics, and more. An outreach campaign to share information with farmers includes field days, a website, blog, farm visits by Cooperative Extension educators, and more. …

“A cool, wet season is a good argument for high tunnels, especially if you are growing warm-season crops – tomatoes, eggplants, and so on,” said Judson Reid, a vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The chance to increase yields, or attract premium prices for, say, fresh and local lettuce in April, or strawberries in September, has attracted the interest of numerous growers and start-up farmers.

Read full news release.

Visit Cornell High Tunnels website.

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