High Tunnel Workshop Offers Farmers Options to Increase Profits



PIKETON, Ohio – Are you a specialty fruit or vegetable crop producer looking to gain a better understanding of how to use high tunnels to boost on-farm profits? Now you have the opportunity to attend a joint Ohio State University Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) workshop on this topic, Feb. 8, 2013.

The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the OSU South Centers at Piketon, 1864 Shyville Road. Registration is $20, with a Jan. 15, 2013, deadline.

The workshop will feature OSU Extension horticulturist Brad Bergefurd and Gary Gao, an OSU Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops, both of whom are based at OSU South Centers at Piketon. Abbe Copple, district conservationist at Pike County NRCS, will also present information.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Topics will include site and crop selection; tunnel construction and management; pest and environmental control; high tunnel economics; high tunnel raspberry production; micro-irrigation setup and management; and U.S. Department of Agriculture Environmental Quality Incentives Program opportunities.

High tunnels are valuable because they can extend the growing season by several months, Gao said. For example, growers can extend raspberry production all the way to December using high tunnels, compared to field raspberries with a production season that typically ends in late September or early October, depending on the weather, he said. 

“High tunnel production of fruits and vegetables is getting more and more popular as farmers realize the profit value in using the growing technique,” Gao said. “Growers are finding that through using high tunnels, they are able to extend the growing season on their crops in order to produce fruits and vegetables both earlier in the season and to extend the growing season longer than traditional planting.”

“High tunnels are also resulting in yield increases, as fruits and vegetables in a protected structure tend to grow better with higher yields. And when you can get an early harvest and later harvest, you can command a higher price, in some cases 50 percent or more.”

While the structures can be expensive to build, some growers have reported earning enough with one crop to pay off the entire high tunnel investment, Bergefurd said.

For example, an industry standard-size high tunnel is 30 by 96 feet and costs between $4,000 to $5,000 to construct, he said.

“But the returns can be good,” Bergefurd said. “For example, depending on the time of the year, the variety planted and the production technique, for a grower planting tomatoes, one crop can return $10,000 to $20,000 with a single crop. 

“But it doesn’t come without a lot of labor, hard work and lots of precise management. That’s the key to high tunnel success.”

Growers may be able to get financial help in building the high tunnels, according to NRCS’s Copple, who will discuss funding options for growers during the workshop.

“Our goal is to promote the use of high tunnels over existing cropland to help producers extend the growing season for high-value crops,” she said. “We have a seasonal high tunnel initiative through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which offers financial and technical assistance for growers to establish high tunnels.”

For more information on the workshop or to register, contact Charissa McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, or email mcglothin.4@osu.edu.  

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Gary Gao
740-289-2071, ext. 123

Brad Bergefurd