Top 10 Reasons You Should Own a High Tunnel
Farmers looking to extend their growing season are wisely turning to high tunnel growing. Do you have one yet? If not, here are the top ten reasons a high tunnel can change your farming operation for the better, whether you are a backyard farmer or working 100 acres.
1. Extended growing season
High tunnels can be big moneymakers if you plan to sell the crops you grow. Within a season or two, you will have earned back the money you spent on the high tunnel with the produce you are selling at market because high tunnels are season extenders. Now, you will be able to start growing earlier in the spring and grow later into the fall because the high tunnel provides your crops with the shelter they need from the elements. When you are growing desirable crops in the off season, imagine how much more they will sell for!
2. Protection from the elements
When you grow inside a high tunnel, you are doing your plants a big favor. High tunnels keep out the wind, reducing stress on growing plants, and making them healthier and stronger. Also, you are in total control of the amount of moisture that reaches your plants, as well as how often it gets there because high tunnels keep out the rain. Is frost an issue in your area? Not anymore! High tunnels will protect your crops so you can grow later into the fall and earlier in the spring.
3. Higher crop yields
Since your growing season is extended when you are using a high tunnel, it only makes sense that you will end up with a higher yield. The more time that you can grow, the more crops that can reach maturity and the more money you can make at market! Not interested in selling your crops? Why not focus on sustainable growing? Think of all the extra homegrown food you could provide to your family and friends. This will save you money on groceries and decrease your carbon footprint.
4. Faster crop yields
If you are used to growing outside in an exposed garden or raised bed, you will be shocked at how much quicker your crops grow inside of a high tunnel. The idea behind the high tunnel is to create the perfect environment for raising plants, with stable temperatures, easy ventilation, weed-free soil and more. Not only can you grow for longer each year, but each crop cycle is shorter, leading to a much larger number of crops ready to eat or sell each year.
5. Climate control
Climate control in greenhouses is usually done with fans, heaters, thermostats and exhaust shutters, but in a high tunnel climate control is built in. The sides on high tunnels usually roll up or drop down, providing you with an easy way to let heat and humidity out, while allowing a cool breeze to roll over your crops. When the cold starts to set in, keep your sides covered and close your doors to trap the valuable heat inside where it belongs. Can you believe there are no electricity costs and very little manual labor associated with keeping temperatures stable in a high tunnel? It’s true!
6. Less labor
High tunnel growing is easy! There is no weeding because your plants are inside. Also, fewer pests and animals will be able to get in, saving you time trying to protect your crops from these destructive little creatures. There is also less labor associated with things like soil maintenance and irrigation, which we will get to next.
7. Easier to irrigate
Since a high tunnel is a controlled area for growing crops year after year, there is no need to worry about rain affecting your own irrigation plans, and you also don’t have to fuss with a hose or watering can to make sure your plants get the water they need. You can install a permanent drip irrigation system when your high tunnel goes up, and watering will be made easy for many seasons to come.
8. Easier to manage soil
The crops you grow in a high tunnel are simply planted in the soil you built your structure over. There is no need to bring in expensive top soil and build up a collection of soil enhancers like you would need to do in a greenhouse that is built on a concrete foundation. Each year, you may have to till the soil before you plant again, but essentially you are just learning to manage the same soil year after year until you know what it needs like the back of your hand.
9. More comfortable to work in
It makes sense that if your plants feel stress during high winds and bad weather, you may be more stressed and much less comfortable in those conditions as well. When tending to your plants in a high tunnel, you are also protected from the elements and can work more comfortably and more quickly in this covered area with more stable temperatures.
10. Government incentives
There are a few great government incentives associated with purchasing a high tunnel in the United States right now. First, there may be tax write offs available if you are using the land you own for agricultural use. A high tunnel on your land can count towards this write off. Make sure to contact someone from your state or local agricultural extension agency to find out if you personally are eligible for this benefit. There is also a great program going on through the NRCS called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” that is awarding funding to qualified farmers looking to start using a high tunnel to grow their crops. All you need to do is contact your local NRCS agent and find out how you can apply. To find your local office, visit the USDA Service Center Locator.
So there they are, the top ten reasons a high tunnel is the best thing since sliced bread for farmers like you. FarmTek can help you design the perfect high tunnel for your growing needs with a little help from a knowledgeable National Account Manager or a visit to FarmTek.com. Happy growing!