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High Tunnel - Growers Supply

Customer Testimonials - Iowa State University Extension

Challenge - Completing research projects
Solution - Two GrowSpan High Tunnels
Size:: 30' wide x 12' high x 96' long
Application - Research and demonstration projects
Location - Lewis, IA and Ames, IA

The extension program at Iowa State University received funding in 2007 to put up two GrowSpan High Tunnels. Linda Naeve, Extension Program Specialist and coordinator for this project, explains, "One GrowSpan High Tunnel was constructed at the ISU Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm near Lewis, IA and the other at the ISU Horticulture Research Farm near Ames, IA. We use the two structures for research and demonstration projects. The same crops and systems are used in both to get data from different locations."

The extension crop specialist, Dr. Hank Taber, focuses on season extension and continuous production of high-value crops, and Naeve focuses on sustainable practices with an emphasis on organic pest management strategies. Naeve continues, "The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture provided grant funding to support the development of a high tunnel production manual for Iowa and three in-depth production workshops."

According to Naeve, the biggest benefit of growing in high tunnels is "the quality of fruits and vegetables produced in the high tunnels. High tunnel agriculture allows more exact control over the water, fertilizer and management strategies and minimizes disease problems." Naeve also discovered that high tunnels allow high crop production and return even when the growing area is small. She says, "Some crops grossed $6,000 to $8,000 per tunnel."

High Tunnel - Growers Supply

Because of the cold Iowa winters, the high tunnels were not being used from November through mid-March. Last year it was decided to test out year-round production in the Lewis high tunnel. Naeve explains, "We planted 1,300 tulip bulbs just before Thanksgiving with the hopes to have cut flowers for the Easter market. We did! The local florists were amazed at the stem length, bloom quality and vase life as compared to shipped cut tulips."

For any producers looking to start growing in high tunnels, Naeve suggests, "Determine your market first and grow high-value crops with high return on off-season production. Combine high tunnels with field production for a continuous supply for the market."

She concludes, "I have been inspired by the potential of high tunnel production — its simple technology, economical price and crop quality. I am seriously considering putting up a high tunnel (or two) on my own small farm to raise vegetables and perhaps expand into a 'retirement business'."

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