AMES, Iowa -- Fruit and vegetable growers can learn more about high tunnel production at an April 29 workshop in Decorah. Current commercial fruit or vegetable growers, gardeners interested in expanding into commercial production and traditional farmers interested in diversifying may benefit from this workshop sponsored by Iowa State University Extension, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition (NIFF) and Four Seasons Tools.
“Like all farmers, fruit and vegetable growers attempt to get the greatest yields of high-quality crops from their land,” said Linda Naeve, Iowa State University Extension value added agriculture program coordinator. “This requires careful planning and using the right tools and strategies. Producing high-value crops in high tunnels is one way growers can increase their production in a limited space.”
High tunnels are inexpensive, simple, passive-solar greenhouses in which crops are grown directly in the soil, said Naeve. They allow growers to extend the season and produce high yields of quality produce earlier than field-grown crops, thus commanding a higher price at market.
Topics to be covered at the workshop include site and high tunnel selection, construction, soil management, irrigation, pest management, bed design and cropping systems and business plan development.
The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 29, in the Decorah area. The workshop will begin in Decorah and then travel to River Root Farm where owners Mike Bollinger and Katie Prochaska will show their moveable high tunnel.
Pre-registration is required by calling Linda Naeve at (515) 294-8946 or e-mailing her at email@example.com. Fees for the workshop are $30 per person or $50 per couple. The fee includes a training manual, lunch and refreshments. Registration deadline is April 23.
The NIFF coalition is offering a $10 scholarship to any producer from Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard or Winneshiek counties who attends the program. The scholarships are made possible by funding from the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Community program.
Funds for this project are part of a two-year Leopold Center competitive grant. Earlier research, also funded by the Leopold Center, showed that certain high-value horticulture crops grown in high tunnels are profitable for growers.
Established by the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act, the Leopold Center supports the development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources. More information about the Leopold Center is available on the web at www.leopold.iastate.edu, or by calling the Center at (515) 294-3711.