This high tunnel at Cornell University’s Dilmun Hill Student Farm was built on rails to allow easy movement between two growing areas.
A production-scale high tunnel is rising at Dilmun Hill Student Farm, adjacent to the Cornell University campus. Once complete, it will not only extend the growing season for the farm, but also serve as an educational resource for the many classes that visit the farm. A high tunnel production workshop series is being planned in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension that will draw on the knowledge and experience of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates across many different departments.
Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) staff, along with members of the Dilmun Hill Steering Committee, have been laying the groundwork at the high tunnel site since early spring, grading the land, spreading and incorporating compost, and installing the foundation. This past Wednesday afternoon, they made short work of installing the frame. (See time-lapse video.)
The high tunnel was made possible by the Toward Sustainability Foundation grant program. Undergraduate Steering Committee member and former Dilmun Hill Farm Manager Alena Hutchinson (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, ’18) secured funding for the tunnel, and worked with builder Howard Hoover of Penn Yan, N.Y., to design a custom tunnel to meet the specialized needs of small- and medium-sized growers in Upstate New York.
The tunnel will feature a solar-powered, automated sidewall system designed by Hutchinson and fellow undergraduate engineering students to make ventilating the structure easier.
Another innovative feature of the high tunnel: It is mounted on rails, so that the tunnel can be easily moved between two different growing areas. Along with increasing production capacity, this design has environmental benefits, such as making crop rotation possible and allowing rain to leach salt from soil, avoiding the salt build up that can be a problem with stationary high tunnels.
Detailed design plans and assembly manuals for all aspects of the tunnel will be available upon the tunnel’s completion. For questions and/or if you want to be involved in the project, contact Alena Hutchinson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On June 28, while still under construction, the tunnel took it’s first trip, traveling from a fallow area to an area newly planted with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
From Chris Wien:
The Federal government is on the high tunnel bandwagon. The USDA, through its Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), is offering assistance to farmers who want to erect high tunnels. (See news release below.) Get details from your local NRCS office.
High tunnel visibility is also being enhanced by the following video, showing erection of salamanders in the White House garden.
Full news release:
3-Year Project To Verify Effectiveness Of High Tunnels In Natural Resource
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2009 Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen
Merrigan today announced a new pilot project under the ‘Know Your
Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels
also known as hoop houses to increase the availability of locally
grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Merrigan and other Obama
administration officials highlighted opportunities available for
producers in a video posted on USDA’s YouTube channel at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07vtMJgp0no, which shows high tunnels
recently installed in the White House garden.
“There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of
healthy, locally-grown crops – a win for producers and consumers,” said
Merrigan. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information
that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add
high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help
producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom
The 3-year, 38-state study will verify if high tunnels are effective in
reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending
the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to
Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic
sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move. High
tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady
incomes to farmers a significant advantage to owners of small farms,
limited-resource farmers and organic producers.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide
financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality
Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the
Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high
tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as 5
percent of 1 acre.
Participating states and territories are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas,
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pacific Islands,
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico,
New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
To sign up or learn more about EQIP assistance for high tunnel projects,
contact a local NRCS office.
Sept. 14, 2009 Department of Horticulture seminar on the benefits of high tunnels for extending the season early and late for vegetables, flowers and berries. Presenters: Dr. Marvin Pritts, Dr. Chris Wien, and intern Elizabeth Buck.