What is in this article?:
- Producers get creative using seasonal high tunnels
- Pilot Program
- Local production
- High tunnels look similar to greenhouses.
- High tunnels modify the climate to create more favorable growing conditions.
- Help available through NRCS.
BEN GODFREY, organic producer and owner of Sand Creek Farm and Dairy and Todnechia Mitchell, NRCS district conservationist in Milam County, examine a sample of Romaine lettuce that was grown in a high tunnel.
The farm does not go outside of an average 35-mile radius for its retail and wholesale customers, and it never ships products, so locally grown, fresh food is very important to the farm’s success. Their customer base includes fine Dallas restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, and retail florists in Dallas and Rockwall.
Martin said the organic farm is already diversified in multiple markets and crop production, such as flowers, herbs and vegetables; some fruits are always needed by the public.
“The extended growing season will give us the opportunity for early production of our sweet and hot peppers, along with fine greens for our Dallas retail restaurant market,” said Martin. “There is far more demand than organic producers in North Texas for good locally grown food, so in terms of meeting demand, the high tunnels will help quite a bit.”
According to Martin, one of the problems the high tunnels will help control on their farm is pest management, which has been a problem from white-tailed deer, grasshoppers and caterpillars.
“There is a high probability we can exclude larger deer from damaging our specialty crops while having better pest management using the high tunnels, but we cannot eliminate all pests such as grasshoppers and caterpillars even though it can be controlled better than in an outdoor environment,” Martin said.
Bostic and Martin agree that their relationship with NRCS prior to getting into the high tunnel program was excellent, and the technical assistance they received over the years made the difference in using the new technology offered from the pilot program.
“We are very pleased with the partnership using NRCS conservation programs on our organic farm, and the results for our locally grown products,” said Bostic.
These producers have taken an opportunity through NRCS farm bill programs, added their own creativity and took small farm production to a whole new level using high tunnel technology.