Registration Open for Spring 2014 Tunnel to Table Workshop
Farmers of any scale or experience level, as well as farmer-educators, farm service providers, and others interested in discovering strategies for using high tunnels or low tunnels to produce profits from food or flower production may now register to attend the Spring 2014 Tunnel to Table workshop on Saturday, April 5 in Lawrence. The event will be held at Juniper Hill Farms, 1547 N 2000 Road, from 10a.m. to 4p.m.
Plastic covered high tunnels and low tunnels and techniques for using them to enhance crop protection, quality, yield, and income will be the focus of a four-part workshop series planned by the Kansas Rural Center. The first event will take place Saturday, April 5, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m at Juniper Hill Farms in northern Douglas County, Kansas. The April workshop will offer both new and experienced producers, as well as farm service providers, information and resources relevant to strategic tunnel construction, crop production, and management in Kansas.
Polytunnels are a valuable addition for Kansas farms. Explains Julie Mettenburg, KRC executive director: “We are a state with extreme weather, which creates unique challenges. Polytunnels greatly enhance climatic controls, providing significant crop protection for fruits and vegetables. They can ease some of the production challenges and dramatically extend the production and income season for Kansas growers.”
The April 5 “Tunnel to Table” workshop will cover both beginning and advanced techniques for using high tunnel or low tunnel technology to extend the income season and increase farm profitability. Growers of all scales and experience levels, as well as farmer-educators and farm service providers, will benefit from producer-led presentations and dynamic roundtable discussions on topics including: structural options for polytunnels, overcoming common challenges, crop planning, financial analysis, and practical advancements in polytunnel technology.
The day will also provide an opportunity to network with resource providers and other growers, and will include an afternoon high tunnel tour and low tunnel construction demonstration with farmer host Scott Thellman, owner/operator of Juniper Hill Farms, and Dan Phelps, KRC Tunnel to Table Activity Coordinator.
A registration fee of $15 includes lunch. Click here for registration information and event details.
Juniper Hill Farms is located just north of Lawrence, Kansas, and produces over 900 acres of hay and alfalfa alongside four acres of diverse year-round organic vegetables. Thellman, a first generation farmer and senior student of agricultural business at Iowa State University, manages Juniper Hill with a great deal of sophistication. “We schedule plantings on each of our tunnels’ five beds at the beginning of the year to ensure adequate supply of our products to markets on a weekly basis,” explains Thellman, “Beds are planted weekly, biweekly, or monthly based on historical yield/ production/ sales data compiled on-farm to ensure the highest profitability and maximum efficiency within each structure.”
“Anyone looking to polytunnels as a lucrative farm enterprise would benefit from this workshop,” says Thellman, who intends to share crop planning strategies and a detailed financial analysis with workshop participants. “High tunnel production is not as easy, profitable, or beneficial as you might think,” he explains. “You really need to crunch your financial figures to ensure success. Without the proper preparations, you may not meet your annual projections or make a meaningful return from your investment.”
Phelps adds, “There is a real opportunity for Kansas farmers to strategically employ polytunnels to ramp-up production and increase year round sales of specialty crops. The local and regional demand is strong; Kansas farmers should seize their market share.” Of the $760 million Kansans spend annually on fruits and vegetables only four percent are produced in-state.
Tunnel to Table is a program of the Kansas Rural Center, supported by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Additional support from Farm Aid will provide several scholarships for women and minorities to attend. The project is designed to advance Kansans’ knowledge of strategies for successful polytunnel (or “plasticulture”) production. On-farm Tunnel to Table workshops will be hosted on farms across the state throughout 2014, with Kansas farmers highlighted as expert presenters. The series will conclude with the release of a Tunnel to Table decision making tool and resource guide for Kansas farms.
Additional workshops in the Tunnel to Table series include:
An early September visit to Full Circle Aquaponics in Atwood, KS – part of a 1,500 acre, multigenerational farm, this highly diversified educational farm and agritourism site uses two high tunnels, a National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) funded 30’x 72’ high tunnel and a ‘topless tunnel’ (which has plastic film sides to 6′ and is covered on top with bird netting). All of the produce from the tunnels is used for guests at Full Circle’s hunting lodge.
A late September visit to Werner Creek Farm in Winfield, KS – a 14 acre farm and homestead with a new NRCS funded 30’x 96’high tunnel. The Werners are beginning farmers who sell fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, herbs, honey, and nuts. Tomatoes are their main high tunnel crop, but they are experimenting with other crops also.
An early October visit to Jay’s Jellies, Produce and More in Clay Center, KS – with over 6,700 square feet under plastic, this farm grows an immense variety of fresh produce, nearly year-round, on a total 1¼ acres. Jay has constructed all of his farm’s high tunnels, including one kit tunnel, five self-designed high tunnels (several are mobile), and a number of low tunnels for use within and outside of the high tunnels.
The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit organization that since 1979 has promoted the long-term health of the land and its people through research, education, and advocacy that advances economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just food and farming systems. For more information about the Kansas Rural Center visit www.kansasruralcenter.org.
Kansas growers with experience using polytunnels of any type are encouraged to complete the Tunnel to Table growers survey, still available at www.kansasruralcenter.org/T2Tsurvey.
The most up-to-date information on Tunnel to Table efforts is available through the project’s landing page at: http://kansas.server265.com/krc_wordpress//t2t/ or by contacting Program Coordinator Cole Cottin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-992-4572.
To register for the April workshop, please click here. A registration fee of $15 per person includes workshop materials and lunch. See registration page for details.
For the full spring 2014 Tunnel to Table workshop speakers and agenda, please click here.