Prairie Sky Farm will host a two-day high tunnel workshop and a free field day – Sept. 3-4, Wesley

For Release: August 14, 2015

WESLEY, Iowa — Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sara Hanson, of Prairie Sky Farm, will host two events devoted to high tunnel design, construction, management and cost-share in early September. The first – “High Tunnel Build at Prairie Sky Farm” – is a two-day, hands-on workshop during which participants will help build a high tunnel from start to finish. The event starts at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3 and ends at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4. Registration is limited to 30 participants, and is required by Thursday, Aug. 27. The cost is free for Practical Farmers members, and $40 for non-members. To register, contact Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or [email protected]. (More details are below.)

The second event is a free “drop-in” potluck and field day that will take place on Thursday, Sept. 3, from 6-8:30 p.m., after first-day workshop activities conclude. The field day – “High Tunnel Drop-In Build and Farm Tour” – is a chance for those curious about high tunnels, but who are not able to attend the two-day workshop, to learn about using high tunnels for vegetable production. The potluck and field day are open to anyone (workshop registration is not required) – but RSVPs are requested for the potluck. Please contact Lauren Zastrow, (515) 232-5661 or [email protected], by Monday, Aug. 31. Niman Ranch will provide brats; guests are asked to bring a side dish or dessert to share, and their own table service. (More details are below.)

The workshop and field day will both take place at Prairie Sky Farm, located at 2505 220th Ave., a few miles northwest of Wesley, and are sponsored by Niman Ranch.

High tunnels are unheated greenhouse structures that can help farmers extend their growing seasons, scale up their operations, protect their crops from the elements – and importantly, boost their efficiency and profitability. To successfully use a high tunnel, however, it’s critical to first select the right size and style, carefully choose the building site, and learn how to manage crops grown in this environment.

Sara Hanson has been using a high tunnel to grow a diverse range of vegetables at Prairie Sky Farm since 2010, with a main focus on early-and late-season high tunnel production. The 15-acre farm is in its first year of organic certification for some of its current vegetable, corn and alfalfa acres. Last autumn, she took down her high tunnel in order to prepare for the construction of a new, stronger high tunnel located in a different spot on her farm.

Workshop Details: During the workshop, attendees will help to build a new 30-by-48-foot Four Season Tools high tunnel. Adam Montri, hoophouse outreach specialist with Michigan State University, will lead the workshop, answering questions about construction, design and production along the way. The event will start with post-pounding and end with a finished high tunnel ready for Sara to use on her farm. Attendees will leave with the knowledge needed to construct their own high tunnels, saving them the cost of hiring someone to construct the tunnel, which can cost as much as the tunnel itself.

Meals will be provided throughout the workshop, but lodging will be the guests’ responsibility. However, Practical Farmers can help coordinate roommates, so guests can split the cost, if desired. For a list of nearby lodging options, visit practicalfarmers.org. For questions, contact Liz Kolbe at [email protected].

Field Day Details: After the first day of work on the high tunnel ends, Sara will host a potluck and farm tour, and, along with Adam Montri, provide an overview of the high tunnel planning process. Topics to be covered will include high tunnel site selection and preparation; the building process; transitioning to organic; vegetable production; prairie field borders; and using the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help offset the costs of installing a high tunnel.

Sara says that working on vegetable farms in the past allowed her to see the potential for profitability in using a high tunnel for season extension.

“I kept detailed crop and production records [for those farms], so I knew including a high tunnel in my own farming operation someday would be a worthwhile investment. Crop quality is excellent and being able to extend the season is crucial to being able to supply early and late market opportunities. The new high tunnel will enable me to extend my seasonal offerings to customers, from March through early December.”

Directions from Wesley: Drive west on U.S. 18 about 1.5 miles to 220th Avenue (gravel). Turn north and go about 3.5 miles; the farm is on the west side of the road (a yellow farmhouse with green roof).

From Algona: Drive east on U.S. 18 for about 8.5 miles. Turn north onto 220th Avenue (gravel) and go about 3.5 miles; the farm is on the west side of the road (a yellow farmhouse with a green roof).

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; 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 (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

###

Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.

Contact:

Liz Kolbe | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]

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