Build a high tunnel greenhouse
A “high tunnel” greenhouse is essentially heavyduty plastic sheeting stretched over a frame shaped like half a tunnel. High tunnels cost less than traditional greenhouses, but they work well too.
Tucker County High School has three greenhouses, one a high tunnel. In the spring, students raise the salad for the school cafeteria, plus local restaurants. Local people stop and buy vegetable seedlings the students grow.
Agriculture teacher Terry Houser gives students starter plants for home gardens. “Our goal is to get the community gardening again,” he said. “The kids learn to garden at school, then they go home and bug their parents to plant a garden.”
He encourages students who want to grow food as a business. “We’re building a business component into the program, and the program give students a built-in lab,” he said.
A high tunnel greenhouse is comparatively easy to create, he said. He teaches students to build an effective temporary high tunnel with little more than tubing and plastic sheeting.
For the past few years, several students have made thousands of dollars in summer, raising vegetables in fields and high tunnels, then selling at farmers markets and through the Farm to School program.
A high tunnel for school or home will cost as little as $2,000 or as much as $10,000, depending on the size, the amount of volunteer labor, and the extras.
High tunnel in the community: A community high tunnel can feed other community projects: In Williamson, Southern Community and Technical Community College students helped put up two high tunnels across from the Williamson senior citizen high rise, next to the community garden. The high tunnels help feed the farmers market year-round.
“A high tunnel could feed the Senior Center or the food pantry,” said Jenny Sue Hudson, director of the Mingo Diabetes Coalition. “There are lots of potential uses.”
Want to explore ways your school and/or community might use a hightunnel greenhouse?
- West Virginia University Extension Service has an excellent high tunnel program, with statewide consultants. They can help schools or other organizations establish a high tunnel program. On their Web site, you can find design plans, construction, temperature management, advice on production and selling, and winter crops, and more: http://anr.ext.wvu.edu/commercial-horticulture/high-tunnels
- Greenhouse or high tunnel? Here’s a good comparison from Mississippi State Extension Service: http://msucares.com/pubs/infosheets/is1674.pdf
- How-to-build-a-home high-tunnel video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_PuA9ZTJUY
- Type “how to build a high tunnel” into a search engine and choose from all the plans that pop up.
- Visit a school or community high tunnel program. Ask your extension agent to locate a nearly program.
- Putnam County’s George Washington Elementary in Eleanor story: http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201305230115
- In Hampshire County Schools,horticulture teachers used no-circulation aquaculture to grow lettuce and a wide variety of vegetables on floating Styrofoam strips.
- Read about a Barbour County farmer who increased his income and sales by building a high tunnel and selling to a farmers’ market.
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