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Seasonal High Tunnel Success Results in Food Bounty to Be Shared

Doug and Mary Newman with their daughter outside their seasonal high tunnel
Doug and Mary Newman with their daughter outside their seasonal high tunnel. Full screen view
The seasonal high tunnel extends the growing season into the cooler months of the year
The seasonal high tunnel extends the growing season into the cooler months of the year. Full screen view

Less than 10 years ago, Doug and Mary Newman moved to the Groton area as beginning organic farmers. In 2010, a few years after establishing their vegetable farm and starting a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation, Doug contacted the Ithaca Field Office to inquire about the new NRCS pilot program which provides cost-sharing for seasonal high tunnels for crops. With limiting resources common to many beginning farmers, the high tunnel cost share program seemed like a great opportunity to Doug and Mary in assisting the farm’s goal of providing food for the local market over a longer season. Fortunately, Doug and Mary’s application was accepted for cost-sharing of a high tunnel.

When asked about the impact of the high tunnel, Mary and Doug said the first impact was that the high tunnel allowed the farm to grow a second crop - mainly spinach - after the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Secondly, it allowed the harvest of fresh local tomatoes for sale at nearby markets earlier which promoted energy conservation - since their local farm uses less energy to deliver the fresh produce to market when compared to having to truck the produce from out-of-state. The high tunnel has also help to address pest infestation. Doug mentioned that the high tunnel was excellent in decreasing common plant diseases such as blight, particularly during wetter growing seasons.

One of the greatest results of the high tunnel, besides decreasing pest problems, reducing energy consumption or providing fresh vegetables to a local market for a longer period of time, is how Doug and Mary Newman support those less fortunate in their community. As part of a group of local farmers, the Newman’s have made good use of the bounty their high tunnel provides by assisting the food pantry once a week with healthy and fresh vegetables to people in need. With a record number of people on assistance and in a very scarce job market, it is at these times that the generosity of the Newman’s is most needed.