High Tunnel Crop and Market Period Diversity

High tunnel use is very popular and has been increasing in Ohio and many other states for decades. Growers are now asking new questions partly because high tunnel production is so popular and increasing and has been practiced for so long on some farms, creating new challenges and opportunities.

“How can I utilize my high tunnel(s) more effectively year-round or fall through spring?” is one very frequently asked question. Many agree that spring-fall tomato harvests can offer the greatest revenue or profit potential. However, others have shown or are learning that harvesting other crops from their high tunnel(s) during summer and/or fall through spring can also be lucrative and beneficial in other ways. Many examples of this have been shared in recent Extension and other programs in Ohio and neighboring states. Working with multiple crops across more of or the entire year requires being familiar with conditions affecting their growth, quality, and potential costs of production and market (profit) potential. Labor and other input costs and how one figures costs of production are obvious factors. For example, one grower-speaker at a recent conference recently described high tunnel space on their farm as “rented,” meaning that their costs of production include how much time is required for a crop to be market-ready. This approach (calculation) directs them and, possibly, others: a) to include lower-cost, quicker-cycling, high value crops in their systems, and b) to be selective when devoting space to high value crops demanding more space, time, and labor. For some, producing multiple crops, managing their investments in crops prone to boom-bust supply-price cycles, and accessing markets through most of or the entire is key to their business. They describe how the approach can limit risk and increase opportunity.

As described in our Feb-3 VegNet article, we seeded Mokum carrot, Red Russian kale, Oriole Swiss chard, Red Pac pac choi, and Music garlic in early Oct-2023 and have given them “minimal” care since that time. Our goal was to discover/demonstrate the potential yield and quality of these crops when grown and overwintered in this way, although the kale, Swiss chard, and pac choi were appropriate for some markets in December-January. This approach may interest growers unfamiliar with and/or currently lacking the ability to make large investments in fall through spring production-harvesting. Recent samples taken from the carrot seedings demonstrate that growth is accelerating and roots are likely to be market-ready soon. A large number of other edible and non-edible crops can be overwintered and/or harvested successfully fall-through spring in Ohio.

Please contact Matt Kleinhenz (330.263.3810; kleinhenz.1@osu.edu) for more information.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *