March 11, 2008
Contact: Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County, 518-561-7450

March 27-28 Conference Talks Production & Economic Potential of High Tunnel Agriculture

There is so much to say about how well high tunnel agriculture can work in Northern New York that Cornell Cooperative Extension has organized a two-day workshop with seven expert speakers.

On March 27 and 28 at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake, NY, growers from Valley Falls and Keene Valley, NY, will share their expertise and experiences along with Cornell University and Extension educators who will provide production tips and cover the economic aspects of high tunnels.

Conference organizer Amy Ivy of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County says, �Growing certain types of produce and cut flowers makes good sense in the North Country. The tunnels extend our short growing season by several weeks and reduce disease problems by keeping rain off the plants. More and more calls are coming in to Extension offices around our region for information and those who are already using high tunnels love them. This conference provides an excellent opportunity to learn first hand from an exciting lineup of Cornell University researchers and regional growers with years of experience using high tunnels.�

Cornell Horticulture Professor H. Christian Wien says, �High tunnels are widely used in other parts of the world: it is estimated that there are 1.9 million acres of high tunnels in China. We expect the use of high tunnels in New York to return a gain of $500,000 per year in the farm-gate value of the state�s horticultural crops by 2010.�

At the conference, Wien will summarize two years of research on the effect of the choice of plastic covering, temperature, wind and ventilation controls on cut flower production in high tunnels, and will offer cautions on the vulnerability of tunnels to high winds.

At Windflower Farm of Valley Falls, NY, Ted Blomgren and his wife Jan use high tunnels to produce cut flowers and vegetables. Ted, a former Extension vegetable specialist and co-producer of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program video on high tunnels, will talk about innovations in high tunnel use.

Blomgren says, �We use both the traditional style and the caterpillar style tunnels to grow crops year-round. The caterpillar style is an inexpensive, portable, walk-in structure that is an economical way to start with high tunnel production.�

Rob Hastings grows a wide variety of fresh produce, herbs and flowers in 10 high tunnels and greenhouses at Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley, NY. He has been a mentor for season extension techniques in the North Country. At the March 27-28 conference he will talk about the pros and cons of the various types of tunnels, construction, glazing, and his cropping patterns.

Hastings is developing production practices that will allow him to grow multiple crops 12 months a year in the challenging Adirondack climate.
New York State Small Fruit Specialist Dr. Marvin Pritts, author of the new Raspberry and Blackberry High Tunnel Production Guide, will speak on growing raspberries. Pritts says, �Raspberries are a high value crop that sell for $ 3.00 to $6.00 per1/2 pint during late fall. A tremendous opportunity exists for New York growers to use off-season production techniques to sell high quality raspberries to restaurants, supermarkets or directly to the consumer when there are no other local sources.�

Adding to the discussion of the exciting economic potential of high tunnel use will be Laura McDermott, Eastern New York Small Fruit Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County.

Vegetable specialist Judson Reid will share tips gained over the past eight years of high tunnel research on growing tomatoes. Reid says, �Tomatoes are well-suited to high tunnel production. Growers can produce 15 to 20 pounds of saleable tomatoes per plant � that definitely makes this type of production something to consider. However, growers must grow tomatoes in combination with other crops to keep soil nutrients replenished.�

Using biological controls for weeds, pests and diseases is the topic of Elizabeth Lamb, a senior extension associate with Cornell�s Floriculture Integrated Pest Management Program.

Lamb says, �There are personal and economic advantages to using IPM. High tunnels are often used by growers who are interested in reducing or eliminating their pesticide use to protect themselves, their families and their workers. IPM practices, in turn, provide growers with the opportunity to market their products to the consumers interested in �green� or �naturally-raised� products.�

Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, and the New York Farm Viability Institute are sponsoring the High Tunnel Production in NNY conference. The two-day conference cost is $50 per person and includes lunch both days and Friday breakfast. Thursday-only registration is $30 and includes lunch; Friday-only registration is $40 and includes breakfast and lunch.

Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County at 518-561-7450 to register and pay by March 21. Contact the Hotel Saranac at 518-891-2200 for overnight reservations, ask for the conference rate. # # #