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Success Story

High Tunnel Helps Producer Expand Growing Season for Farmer’s Market Sales

By Anita Avvisato
Publish Date
Pepper plants in high tunnel

The Avvisato's received financial asssitance from USDA's NRCS to construct a high tunnel to allow them to extend their growing season by providing a controlled, sheltered environment for their crops.

Dave and Anita Avvisato have been growing vegetables at their home in Wayne County, Pennsylvania since 2004. They began with a basic backyard garden and after a few years of producing more vegetables than they could eat, freeze, or give away, they realized that they must be doing something right. They both had full-time jobs but enjoyed coming home and working in the dirt.

“The year we literally had bushels of cucumbers, a friend encouraged us to take them to the farmers market,” said Anita. That year they joined the Wayne County Farmers Market, and their hobby became their foray into the local food chain.

Far Away Farms hit the ground running and developed quite a following at the farmer’s market. Customers were eager to see what they were growing, what new vegetables were in the pipeline, and when products would be available. They rarely came home with more than a few onions or a bunch of kale. The shoppers wanted it all... and more!

Dave Avvisato in high tunnel

This escalating demand for home-grown produce was years before the current explosion of consumers looking for “safe” food. It soon became apparent that they needed a way to extend the growing season, and a high tunnel seemed to fit the bill.

The couple received financial assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to construct a high tunnel on their property. The high tunnel allows the Avvisato’s to extend their growing season by providing a controlled, sheltered environment for their crops.

Dave and Anita purchased a 30’ x 72’ double layer plastic greenhouse in November of 2013. Before a post could be driven or purloin placed, a site was carefully chosen. Drainage, sunlight, topography, water, and electricity sources were all considered. Friends from their local PASA group, Brian Enslin and Todd Klikus, helped Dave with the bulk of the construction.

“Brian’s knowledge gained by building his own high tunnel was absolutely invaluable,” said Dave. “When it was time to pull on the plastic roof, it was all hands (friends, neighbors and relatives over the age of 12) on deck!”

In the last seven years, the Avvisato’s have seen a big difference in what they are able to produce and the quality of the vegetables by growing inside the high tunnel. By using eggplant, pepper, and tomato seed designed specifically for greenhouse production, the harvest of these vegetables is earlier and much more reliable. Other crops such as string beans, lettuces, green onions, and kohlrabi are ready sooner than if they had to wait for the outside ground to be hospitable.

“Although a high tunnel comes with its own set of problems and conditions, for the most part, we are very happy with the results,” said Anita. “Of course, learning what works and what doesn’t, as with everything else in farming, is part of the process. But we are truly happy and proud to be doing our tiny share of caring for people and our planet through agriculture.”