Moveable high tunnels: What can they offer? Learn more at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – Aug. 3, near Atlantic

For Release: July 18, 2014

ATLANTIC, Iowa — High tunnels are becoming a common fixture on Iowa fruit and vegetable farms. The plastic-covered structures offer produce farmers all sorts of opportunities, from extending the growing season and access to niche markets to protecting plants from some types of weather-related damage.

Many farmers are starting to install moveable high tunnels that can be physically moved to increase season extension and farm income even more, as well as provide more options for crop rotation, cover crops and soil health. Denise O’Brien started using a moveable high tunnel this year.

“The moveable high tunnel has been really wonderful. We’ve been selling spinach since March, and our cucumbers were especially early,” says Denise, who operates Rolling Acres Farm near Atlantic with her husband, Larry Harris. “Now, because of the coolness, we’ll probably be a little bit ahead of the market with our tomatoes.”

Denise and Larry invite farmers and the public to learn about their experiences with a moveable high tunnel at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Sunday, Aug. 3, from 2-4 p.m., near Atlantic. The event – “Exploring Possibilities with a Moveable High Tunnel” – is free to attend and open to everyone. Rolling Acres Farm is located at 59624 Chicago Rd., about 7.5 miles north of Atlantic. The field day is sponsored by Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Attendees will learn about the possibilities a moveable high tunnel can provide for extended season production – as well as the pitfalls new users might encounter, and the logistics of growing produce inside one of these structures. In addition, Denise and Larry will talk about their use of cover crops and their local marketing efforts.

“Given that this is our first year using our moveable high tunnel for production, we would like to share with everyone the ups and downs of what our first year has been like,” Denise says. “For instance, one of the downsides is that I’m having to get used to having things in the ground all the time.”

Rolling Acres Farm has been in organic production since 1976. The moveable high tunnel was built with cost-share assistance from a Natural Resources Conservation Service program and the growing area inside is organically certified with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The remainder of the 5-acre farm incorporates organic methods. Denise and Larry raise vegetables and fruit for a Community Supported Agriculture business in Omaha, Neb., and sell through Lone Tree LLC into the Omaha wholesale and restaurant market. They also sell to the Atlantic Hy-Vee and the Cass County Memorial Hospital.

Directions from I-80: Rolling Acres Farm is 1.5 miles south of I-80 at Exit 54. Turn south on Iowa Route 173 to Chicago Road, then turn left (east) and drive one-half mile.

From Atlantic: Take Marne Road / Iowa Route 83 west out of town and follow the signs for Route 173. Turn right (north) and drive 3 miles to Chicago Road. Turn right and go one-half mile.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 field day season features 35 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available on Practical Farmers’ website, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2014 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Calcium Products; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Gateway Market and Café; Grain Millers, Inc.; Grassland Oregon; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (ICASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Cross Seed – Soil First; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Insurance Corporation; MOSA Organic Certification; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); National Wildlife Federation; Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

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Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.

Contact:

Denise O’Brien and Larry Harris | Rolling Acres Farm | (712) 243-3264 | [email protected] | www.rollingacres.wordpress.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]