The University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) is pleased to announce receipt of a $20,000 gift from the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). CROPP is an organic-farmer-owned cooperative of the Organic Valley Family of Farms™ products, based in LaFarge, WI.
The CROPP gift will aid in the initiation of an outreach and research program at SWROC in the use of high tunnels for organic vegetable production. High tunnels are polyethylene covered, greenhouse-like structures where crops are grown directly in the ground.
Terry Nennich, Extension Professor at the University of Minnesota Regional Extension Center in Crookston, has been investigating the use of high tunnels in Northwest and Central Minnesota for the past five years. According to Terry Nennich, the primary advantage of high tunnels is their ability to increase air and soil temperatures inside the tunnel and thus extend the growing season earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Additional benefits include decreased pest pressures and higher yields.
In Lamberton, CROPP gift funds will be used to aid in set-up, infrastructure, and labor costs for a high tunnel being built in May 2008. This tunnel will be used to begin a program in Southwestern MN in high tunnel organic vegetable production research and demonstration. Gift funds will also help support a symposium on high tunnels at the SWROC in the fall of 2008.
Future plans include the construction of additional high tunnels and the expansion of high tunnel research at Lamberton. Research objectives will likely focus on fertility management, and will be based on experience with the high tunnel in 2008 and discussion generated at the fall symposium.
According to Carmen Fernholz, UMN Organic Research Coordinator, “There is a growing market for local and organic produce. Vegetable production in high tunnels could be extremely beneficial to Minnesota and the rest of Upper Midwest where the growing season is short, to help expand the availability of fresh, local produce.”
To tour the new high tunnel, attend the UMN’s Organic Field Day, to be held July 10, 2008, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm at the SWROC in Lamberton. For updates on the UMN’s high tunnel project and other organic agriculture research, visit: www.organicecology.umn.edu.
For more information, contact Kelley Belina, UMN Research Fellow, at 507-752-7372 send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.