Friday, April 19, 2013

Extend the Growing Season with SARE's New Collection of How-To Resources

With consumer interest in locally raised foods steadily growing, vegetable farmers are discovering they can add an important income stream through high tunnels-a cost-effective means to extend production and sales into the traditional off season. One Maryland farmer started using a high tunnel to raise spinach and tomatoes from early spring through late fall, and in the first three years earned an extra $32,000 at the farmers' market.

The farmer was one of 41 in the Mid-Atlantic who built high tunnels from 2004-2007 as part of a SARE-funded project to share knowledge about the structures and promote them as a primary tool of season extension.

Now, in-depth information about high tunnels can be found in SARE's new Season Extension Topic Room - a one-stop collection of dozens of guidebooks, curricula, webinars, bulletins and other how-to materials to help farmers, educators and researchers across the country implement effective season extension strategies.

Information products in the Season Extension Topic Room derive from SARE-funded research and education projects, and are organized according to key topic areas: Overview; Types and Construction; Variety Trials and Selection; Fertility Management; Pest Management; Water Management; Energy; and Marketing and Economics. While the Season Extension Topic Room includes extensive information on high tunnels (also known as hoop houses), some materials also address greenhouse and nursery production, low tunnels and winter storage.

Examples Season Extension Topic Room features include:
Recognizing the role that high tunnels can play in diversifying farmer income while meeting growing consumer demand for local food, NRCS offers grants that help pay for high tunnel construction. In 2010, its first year, the program led to the construction of 2,400 structures in 43 states in 2010.

The Season Extension Topic Room will be updated with new resources as they become available, so check back often!

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