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High Tunnels Boost Tomato Harvest
Todd Griggs considered himself a conventional market garden farmer until he purchased a 21 by 48-ft. high tunnel in 2010. When plants in the high tunnel produced 18 lbs. of quality tomatoes compared to 4 lbs. in the field, the Augusta, Kan., farmer recognized an opportunity to grow his business.
  “You can control every bit of water and micrometer the fertilizer. Tomatoes always come out of the house shiny and healthy,” Griggs says.
  Plants still grow in the ground inside the high tunnels, which require manual ventilation – rolling the sides up or down. With frost blankets, plants can be started as early as Feb. 15, with tomatoes ready to harvest by the third week in May.
  The early start eliminates some pest problems, and shade cloths can be used to reduce heat stress, Griggs notes. While he has had losses in the high tunnels from large hail, the plastic protects plants in most weather, including small hail.
  “Pea-size hail that will decimate a crop in the field doesn’t bother the houses at all,” Griggs says.
  Since putting up that first tunnel, the Kansas vegetable grower has added larger 30 by 96-ft. high tunnels. By the end of the year he will have 11 structures. He notes that he is able to grow two crops of tomatoes in them per season. He also grows tomatoes in the field to fill in the gap between crops.
  Other vegetables do well in high tunnels, but Griggs focuses on high value tomatoes, which he sells at farmers markets and to roadside markets and other vendors.
  “It’s a sizable investment of money and time. The time investment is what people need to look at,” he emphasizes. “You have to monitor them morning and night and shut them when a storm is coming. I advise people to buy the largest and sturdiest-built tunnel you can afford.”
  Griggs uses tunnels made by Poly-Tex (www.poly-tex.com; ph 800 852-3443) and Zimmerman (www.zimmermanshightunnels.com; ph 414 916-9873). The investment and time pays off with more produce to market for a longer time - almost until Thanksgiving last year for Griggs.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Todd Griggs, 1315 Money St., Augusta, Kan. 67010 (ph 316 651-3864; toddgriggs@att.net).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5