Grow Appalachia’s basic mission is to help as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible. We’ve expanded on this mission over the years, tailoring our efforts to include a peer-led model of programmatic delivery at the local level, in which a local site coordinator drives the program in his or her community. We do our best to meet families where they are, instead of offering a cookie-cutter approach. And finally, we place great value in the education offered at each site, equipping each family we serve with both the resources and the knowledge they need to be successful. In terms of Grow Appalachia’s own success, one component of outreach we have implemented in the field over the past four and a half years is our seasonal high tunnel program.
High tunnels are a season extension tool that allow for fruit and vegetable production in an enclosed, relatively climate-stable environment. Similar to a greenhouse, high tunnels are covered with greenhouse-grade plastic and can allow for extra ventilation during warmer periods with roll-up or curtain-drawn sides. What makes high tunnels most appealing is that those who produce in high tunnels see, on average, an extra four to six weeks of growing time. This is highly advantageous, especially for market growers. Think about it this way: What would four to six extra weeks do for your production and your sales?
Grow Appalachia’s high tunnels are marketed as “Homestead High Tunnels“, because we recognize that many producers, especially those in the hills and mountains of Central Appalachia, deal with widely varying growing conditions, terrains, and climates. We’ve developed a flexible, customizable, and robust design that meet or exceed recipients needs and production purposes. In fact, our high tunnels also meet or exceed NRCS* standards. Currently, we offer two designs: a Quonset and a Gothic. Our Gothic high tunnel features a peaked roof, ideal for shedding snow, and more workable square footage of growing space. Our Quonset high tunnel is more affordable and features a sleek curved design that’s built to last. Width and height are fairly set in stone, but the lengths of both designs are flexible in 4-ft increments: we have a range of 12- 96 feet in the field! The standard size for a Gothic is 15 ft wide x 48 ft long x 9 ft high, and the Quonset standard measurements are 12 ft wide x 40 ft long x 7 ft high.
When you purchase a Grow Appalachia seasonal high tunnel, you receive so much more than a long-lasting product: Our high tunnel and social enterprise team, Mark Walden and Christopher McKenzie, will work with you every step of the way. If you are within 100 road miles of Berea, KY, they will deliver your high tunnel kit to you, along with a full day’s installation. If you are unsure of how to fund your tunnel, they will work with you in identifying sources that fit your budget and needs, through loan programs or grants that are available through the USDA or the NRCS. Most recently, they will, if needed, provide additional accessories and supplies to equip your tunnel for maximum production efficiency: this includes drip irrigation packages, additional hardware, cover crop seeds, individual production plans, and more. Got questions or need more information? You can reach Mark (Mark_Walden@berea.edu) at 859-985-4178, or Chris (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 859-985-3346.
How Does Your Tunnel Grow?
If you already have a high tunnel but are not sure of what to plant, we’ve included a brief list of varieties that do quite well in high tunnels:
- Eureka Cucumbers: can be used for pickling and slicing, resistant to downy mildew, cucumber mosaic virus, powdery mildew, angular leaf spot, and much more.
- Lola Tomato: an indeterminate variety resistant to fusarium wilt and mosaic virus. An early fruit setter.
- Most greens, including arugula, Pak Choi, Red Russian kale, Tat Soi (an Asian mustard-type green), Bibb lettuce, and spinach do very well in high tunnels in Kentucky. (Source: High Tunnel Leafy Greens & Herbs).
- Waltham Broccoli: Produces compact heads and has great flavor!
If you’re a tunnel producer, what’s your go-to crop that stands to deliver every time?
One last thing: If you’re attending the Southern SAWG Annual Conference in Lexington this weekend, be sure to stop by our table at the Trade Show! You can learn more about our seasonal high tunnels!