Especially suited to small and urban farms, the simple, low-cost structures make the growing season longer.
Inside, fruits and vegetables ripen earlier in spring and yield later in fall, with no need for fossil-fuel heat.
“High tunnels translate into greater food production, greater food security and greater potential farm income,” said OARDC scientist Matt Kleinhenz.
At OARDC facilities in Piketon and Wooster and on cooperating farms, Kleinhenz and OARDC colleague Brad Bergefurd are studying high tunnels, documenting their benefits and refining the best ways to use them. Then, they’re sharing their findings with farmers.
“We’ve used OARDC’s high tunnel research to increase our impact by providing high-quality produce for more months of the year,” said Dana Hilfinger, farm manager for Urban Farms of Central Ohio (pictured above, right).
“We’re a nonprofit commercial farming organization providing fresh produce access to food-insecure individuals,” she said. “We’ve been able to market our produce earlier in the season, generating more revenue to support our mission and generally supporting central Ohio’s local food economy,”
- In Ohio, high tunnels can extend the marketing season of a farm from six months to year-round.
- High tunnels increase a farm’s annual food production. Warm- and cool-season crops are grown and sold in succession. Hundreds to thousands of pounds of more and different kinds of produce are taken from tunnels when outside fields are dormant. That means more revenue to growers and greater choice and health benefits to consumers.
- Weather extremes disrupt normal farming practices outside, but not so much inside high tunnels. High tunnels protect crops from rain, snow, wind, cold and other stresses, including some pests and disease-causing pathogens. Tunnel production can use less fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides and labor.
Get further details on this research here.