Background:

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, the average last spring frost date in Bismarck is May 12 and the average first fall frost date is September 24. Using a season extension tool such as a high tunnel, a producer may extend the growing season by 30 days both in the spring and fall, if not longer. Using this tool in a school setting could help demonstrate hands-on vegetable growing techniques and principles longer during the months students are in school. Another goal of this project is to foster a better understanding of season extension for vegetable production, for young adults interested in pursuing a career in specialty crop production.

 

Grant award amount up to $10,000

How can this grant help my school?

  • Give students the opportunity to grow vegetables longer during the school year.
  • Teach industry standard vegetable growing techniques on a larger scale.
  • More opportunity for hands on learning paired with classroom instruction.
  • Better prepare students for careers in vegetable production and related fields.
  • Provide students with learning opportunities over the summer.
  • The yield trial can be integrated into many different classroom curricula to enhance learning.

Grant overview:

  • Grants will be awarded though a competitive process, and awarded to a minimum of 5 schools or communities.
  • The application process will have many steps, including an interview.
  • The grant cycle would start in the spring of 2019 and end in the winter of 2021.
  • The grant would include the construction of a 30’ x 48’ high tunnel.
  • The winning applicant will need to have sufficient space not only for the structure, but the same size growing space outside

 

  • Winning applicant must:
    • Fill out a pre- and post-project survey
    • Submit quarterly reports and expenses, including proper expenses documentation
    • Be able to pay for all expenses, then get reimbursed later
    • Agree to a 2-year commitment
      • The first year the applicants would need to construct the high tunnel to be ready for planting early the following spring.
      • Hold a build day workshop where the public would be invited to learn and help.
      • The second year would be dedicated to the yield trial. Note: This would mean the applicant is committed to working on the project over the summer and recording data.
        • The yield trial would be a comparison of growing a minimum of four crops: cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and another of their choice, inside the high tunnel and outside.
          • Management practices must be consistent inside and outside.
        • Data required for both protected and unprotected growing will include, but not be limited to:
          • Recording planting dates
          • Date of first harvestable produce
          • Date of last harvestable produce
          • Total pounds of each crop harvested
          • Other observations along the way

 

Some things to consider when selecting a high tunnel:

  • Visit with a producer or university that has experience building and growing inside high tunnels. They are usually more than willing to share their experiences.
  • Make sure you call companies for quotes. Just looking at a catalog will give you some idea of costs but there are additional considerations a sales consultant can help talk to you about.
  • Make sure you talk about durability to high winds when you price out a high tunnel. Wind is a high tunnel's worst enemy. There are accessories you can purchase to strengthen your tunnel to prevent it from getting damaged in a high wind event.
  • End walls – Solid end walls will make the structure more durable in high winds. Most high tunnel manufacturers sell an end wall kit, or they sell brackets that attach to the structure and you can build your own. A qualitybuilt end wall will ensure your tunnel stays standing for years.
  • Tunnel shape – There has been much debate about what shape is best. A gothic style has taller sides and allows you to plant and work more comfortably along the edges. A quonset style with its arched roof may cause less pressure points for the plastic and may last longer.
  • Roll up sides are a must. Even plants like tomatoes and peppers that are warm season crops will experience yield losses if the temperatures inside get too hot. This also means that during the summer someone will need to be monitoring temperatures and adjusting daily. Depending on the shape of your tunnel and how high the sides roll up, end wall ventilation may be needed. Visiting with farmers or high tunnel manufacturers can help you answer these questions.
  • Doors to get equipment in and out. Think about the type of equipment you will be using inside the tunnel and build adequate openings to get it in and out with ease.
  • Consider purchasing insurance for your high tunnel or having your school/agency add the high tunnel to its current insurance plan. Weather incidents happen, and you want to make sure your hard work doesn’t just vanish with no way to restore it.

 

Site Preparation Considerations:

  • Prepare the site before the tunnel is built.
  • It is important that your tunnel be placed on level ground where water will drain away and not into the structure. Vegetable plants do best in well drained soils.
  • It is a good idea to get a soil test and add any soil amendments first, and then build on top of the amended soil.
  • Should you tunnel face east, west, north or south? There is lots of discussion about which way to set up your tunnel. A lot of it depends on your location and what works best for the space you have. There is no right or wrong answer.

 

Watering Considerations:

  • Most high tunnel growers use a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation has many benefits first,­­ it conserves water, and second it keeps your plants drier which helps to prevent the spread of foliar diseases.

  • Overhead watering in the middle of the summer will increase the humidity inside the high tunnel and increase the chances for spread of disease.

 

To learn more about season extension watch this video.

 

Specialty Crop Season Extension Grant Application

(For best results, we recommend using Internet Explorer to download the application.
If application does not open in browser, please download to your computer to fill out.)

Application deadline: January 25, 2019

 

 

Specialty Crop Season Extension Grants Contacts

Jamie Good

Local Foods Specialist
701-328-2659 701-226-7337 jgood@nd.gov