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Hennepin County Seasonal High Tunnel Workshop

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Hennepin County Seasonal High Tunnel Workshop

Crisp, cool, fall weather in rural Hennepin County did not hamper attendance at the outdoor Hennepin County High Tunnel Workshop on October 4, 2012. Close to 50 participants and speakers attended this hands-on learning opportunity at the Knapton’s Raspberries, Pumpkins and Orchard in Greenfield, MN.

Hennepin County Seasonal High Tunnel Betsy Wieland, The University of Minnesota Extension; and Mary Monte from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) partnered together to hold this event. The morning session at Knapton’s focused in on how to get started with seasonal high tunnels, while the afternoon session focused in on how to maintain the High Tunnel System. A Seasonal High Tunnel is used to extend the growing season by 2 months on both sides of the growing season (beginning) and the (end).

Mel and Gabe Knapton shared their High Tunnel Story. Their project began in 2010 with the financial and technical assistance from the USDA-NRCS. Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Knapton family planned and constructed a High Tunnel for their farming operation. The addition of a High Tunnel has allowed the Knapton’s to begin their growing season much earlier which results in having locally grown produce available much earlier than field planted crops. Mel Knapton said “the High Tunnel has allowed us to buy time in the beginning of the growing season and every situation is different; having a High Tunnel to grow vegetables is a learning experience.”

Through trial and error, the Knapton’s have learned what works for them at their farm. This workshop provided valuable information that both existing and new High Tunnel producers could use. . Doug Joyer (Waldock Farm Inc) gave an overview of their USDA-NRCS High Tunnel production in Anoka County. The ability to ask questions of the Knapton’s and other presenters made this workshop practical.
Don Josko from BFG and Kenny Stuckmayer from Polly-Tex shared their company’s experience with the High Tunnels. Josko and Stuckmayer share a few High Tunnel helpful tipsters including but not limited to: Check with local authorities for needed permits; installation considerations such as the orientation of the High Tunnel in terms of the direction of prevailing winds; site selection; and type of features do you want in a High Tunnel structure.

Mary Monte, District Conservationist, USDA-NRCS shared the highlights of NRCS’ premiere conservation program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). Monte explained a snap-shot version of EQIP including how a producer might sign-up for EQIP and consider applying for financial and technical assistance for a High Tunnel project. In order to receive EQIP dollars, the agricultural producer must be able to meet a national priority such as non-point pollution, water quality, erosion, etc. She reminded the workshop participants that an Ag Producer is one that has an income of $1,000 in agricultural products. Producers were encouraged to stop by their local NRCS office as sign-up for conservation programs at NRCS occurs year-round.

The afternoon session was filled with valuable information for those who currently are producers with an existing High Tunnel. Soil Fertility Maintenance, Integrated Pest Management, and Crop Rotation presentation was given by Terry Nennich. The Economics portion was presented by Karl Foorde (U of M) provided helpful information on profitability and marketing of produce. The final presentation was give by Kenny Stuckmayer on Structure Maintenance.

For more information regarding the Seasonal High Tunnel Workshop, please contact Mary Monte, District Conservationist at mary.monte@mn.usda.gov

 

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