Projects and Programs

Research Programs Grant-Funded Projects
Leopold Center
MN Department of Agriculture
Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships
Sow the Seeds Fund

Research Programs



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Grant-Funded Projects

Leopold Center

The Leopold Center is a research and education center with statewide programs to develop sustainable agricultural practices that are both profitable and conserve natural resources.

Within the Leopold Center's Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, the Tunnels to Tables program sponsors research in collaboration with Iowa State University Horticulture Department and ISU Research Farms:

Project Title Project Description
High Tunnel Bramble Production
2008 Report (PDF, 333 kb)
2007 Report (PDF, 242 kb)
Brambles (raspberries and blackberries) are high value fruits that have good economic potential on small farms. This study was initiated to determine if a high tunnel could be used to improve over-wintering of floricane brambles, and if the harvest season of primocane brambles could be advanced far enough ahead that they could replace the floricane types.
High Tunnel Pepper Production
2008 Report (PDF, 181 kb)
2007 Report (PDF, 87 kb)
The objective of the trial was to identify sweet bell blocky, pepper varieties with good production and fruit quality characteristics suitable for Iowa’s variable and often stressful growing season. A combination of high tunnel and field production planting dates were chosen to maintain a continuous growing season supply and to determine profitability of the high tunnel system.
High Tunnel Pole Bean Evaluation
2008 Report (PDF, 838 kb)
Our objective was to evaluate two pole bean varieties: Fortex, an extra long pod (11-inch) 60-day maturity, and Blue Lake, a standard pole bean variety, 6 to 7 inch round pod with 55-day maturity. Also, we wished to compare high tunnel production with field production and obtain two crops in the high tunnel by double cropping.
High Tunnel Greek Oregano Production
2008 Report (PDF, 24 kb)
The objectives of this study were to determine if Iowa-grown Greek oregano will yield quality oil for the pharmaceutical industry, determine if there is an advantage to growing oregano in high tunnels compared to field production, and determine whether Greek oregano has potential to be a viable niche opportunity for Iowa growers.
Business Models for High Tunnel Production (PDF, 87 kb) Properly matching postharvest processing infrastructure with the accessible market is critical to the success of an operation and should also be a key determinant in choosing the proper business structure for each enterprise. The purpose of this report is to compare the opportunities and constraints of participating in each of the various business models or combination of models, using the most appropriate criteria for evaluation.
High Tunnel Pest Scouting Model
2007 Report (PDF, 99 kb)
The objective of this study was to produce quality fruits and vegetables in high tunnels using integrated pest management (IPM) and sustainable pest control strategies.
High Tunnel Tomato Production
2007 Report (PDF, 103 kb)
2006 Report (PDF, 191 kb)
Our objective was to maintain a steady supply of fresh market tomatoes throughout the growing season by evaluating a combination of cultural practices: proper variety selection (adaptable varieties for early and main season); sequence of planting dates; and the use of high tunnels, row covers, and selective wavelength polyethylene mulches (increased soil temperature compared to black plastic).

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Minnesota Department of Agriculture

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program (ESAP) awards grants to Minnesota farmers, individuals at Minnesota educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and local natural resource agencies, to research and demonstrate the profitability, energy efficiency, and benefits of sustainable agriculture practices and systems from production through marketing. Grant recipients host field days and results from projects are published annually in “The Greenbook.”

Greenbook 2009

Several season extension projects were funded in 2008, and reported on in the 2009 Greenbook. Contact information for investigators is listed in the Greenbook articles.

Project Title and Author Project Description
2011. Extending the Growing Season Workshop, Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) Download presentations from this April 7th, 2011 workshop including: "High Tunnel Production and Irrigation Basics", " Intercropping in High Tunnels" and more.
2009. Intercropping within a High Tunnel to Achieve Maximum Production.
Mark Boen, Fergus Falls, MN
PowerPoint Presentation
The purpose of this project is to measure the profitability of intercropping secondary crops (onions, lettuce, radishes, spinach, beets, carrots) with the primary crops of tomatoes and cucumbers. We also wanted to find out which of the secondary crops would do well in the high tunnel.
2009. Using Solar Energy to Heat the Soil and Extend the Growing Season in High Tunnel Vegetable Production.
Dallas Flynn. Frazee, MN
PowerPoint Presentation
This past year we installed a high tunnel that uses solar heat to warm the soil below the tunnel. We pump hot air from three solar panels through a series of corrugated tile lines buried beneath a 30’ x 48’ high tunnel. We were able to grow and harvest lettuce, spinach, and radishes in December.
2009. Extended Growing Season for Lettuce.
Michael Hamp. Sebeka, MN
The reason for the project is to see if using shade cloth houses and jet fog misters to lower the air temperature over lettuce beds will create an environment that will provide a continuous supply of lettuce throughout the growing season here in Central Minnesota.
2009. Winter Harvest of Hardy Crops under Unheated Protection.
Kelly Smith. Esko, MN
The aim of this project is to develop and demonstrate a method for growing hardy greens under unheated mobile high tunnels and floating row cover protection in Northeast Minnesota - adapting production techniques proven to work in warmer climates to our local area. Hardy greens may freeze at night but generally will thaw out at midday and can then be harvested.
2004. Root Cellaring and Computer-controlled Ventilation for Efficient Storage of Organic Vegetables in a Northern Market.
(go to pp 34-37)
John Fisher-Merritt. Wrenshall, MN
We designed and installed an automated temperature control and monitoring system in our new root cellar. We demonstrated the efficiency and cost effectiveness of using the earth’s natural temperature differences to heat and cool a space for vegetable storage. The environmental benefits of this project are tremendous. Instead of buying produce trucked in from thousands of miles away and stored in warehouses heated and cooled by fossil fuels, our customers are purchasing high quality produce, grown locally, and stored using a minimum of energy.

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North Central Region SARE
(Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Program,

SARE advances innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. The North Central Region has grant programs for educators, researchers, farmers and students. A number of recent grants have supported research and outreach in season extension, mostly in the farmer/rancher granting program.

Project abstracts and results are online. Links are provided below for convenience, but you can also search the SARE project database:

You can search for further information on projects listed below by entering the project number in the “search terms.”

Project Title, Number, and Author Project Description
Indiana High Tunnel Initiative: Developing Extension-Farmer Partnerships for Education.
Project Number: ENC08-106.
Amy Thompson, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Professional Development Grant
Purpose of this professional development project is to have educator/producer intensive partnerships to develop practical, hands on educational programming on high tunnel production.
Peony Flower Insurance for Early Market Blooms-the High Tunnel.
Project Number: FNC07-683.
Jo Anne Thomas. Shawnee Mission, KS
Farmer-Rancher Grant.
Peonies grown in a high tunnel will provide a comparison in development to field grown peonies. The goal is to reach the flower market as early as possible and my other growers will observe these developing flowers over time.
Improved Productivity in Winter Greenhouse.
Project Number: FNC06-642.
Carol Ford. Milan, MN
Farmer-Rancher Grant.
Three variables were tested to determine their impact on the productivity of hardy winter greens produced in a passive solar greenhouse from mid-December to mid-February. Results will help determine the most effective production schedule and methods to maximize greenhouse output.
RainFresh Harvests Year-Round Production of Herbs and Specialty Vegetables - Evaluation of Production Efficiencies and Processing Options for Market Season Extension to Maximize Profitability.
Project Number: FNC07-695.
Barry Adler. Plain City, OH
Farmer-Rancher Grant.
RainFresh Harvests uses three kinds of intensive production systems for growing herbs and specialty vegetables for fresh local markets - a renewable energy greenhouse with aquaponics, an unheated passive solar greenhouse, and outdoor raised beds. This project will compare these practices and evaluate resource inputs including energy, labor, fertilizers and biocontrols with regard to yield and dollar return to determine the most cost effective production practices; and also evaluate methods to extend the market season for selected crops that often provide a surplus during the active growing season.
Season Extension of Hay-Mulched Potatoes Using High Tunnels.
Project Number: FNC06-640
Scott Salvage Loudonville, OH
Farmer-Rancher Grant
Our goals were to research growing potatoes under hay in a high tunnel beginning in winter for early spring fresh market ; growing potatoes in fall under hay in high tunnels and attempt to have the plants (with potatoes attached) go dormant for continuous fresh harvest through winter for the winter farmers’ markets.
The Suitability of Flexible Fuel Biomass Heating for the Greenhouse Crop Environment and the Effect of Crop Profitability When Compared to Propane Heating.
Project Number: FNC06-629.
Stacy Adams. Firth, NE
Farmer-Rancher Grant
Greenhouse crop production during the winter results in large energy demands to keep the greenhouse environment suitable for plant production. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the feasibility of using a biomass heating unit for greenhouses. The amount of labor required to operate this heating method will be monitored and a return on investment calculation will determine if a cost savings can be realized. Finally, the growing environment will be evaluated for temperature stability and humidity or condensate control, as well as, identification of production issues that materialize during the study.
Heirloom Vegetable Production Strategies to Improve Family Farm Income.
Project Number: FNC05-576.
Walker Claridge. Fulton, MO
Farmer-Rancher Grant.
The goal of the project was to explore the feasibility of raising heirloom vegetables to increase family farm income. We hoped to accomplish this goal via production of seedlings, high tunnel vegetable systems and through innovative cooperative-marketing arrangements.
A Comparison of the Profitability of Subsoil Heated and Unheated Hoophouse vs. Field Production of Cool-Climate Salad Crops in Central Lower Michigan Project.
Number: FNC04-530.
Philip Throop. Bath, MI
Farmer-Rancher Grant
This project addresses the question of net profitability of the a) cool-season hoophouse method of production, compared to, b) conventional field culture and in, c) a seasonally heated greenhouse. Profitability was addressed in the context of the various markets utilized and was compared and contrasted.
Resource Center City Farm.
Project Number: FNC04-518.
Kristine Greiber. Chicago, IL
Farmer-Rancher Grant
The goal of this project was to learn precision techniques for growing cold-season crops in unheated structures (hoophouses) for optimal production, nutritional value and price. This project will allow urban agriculture to help fill the tremendous winter demand for cold-season salad greens while engaging inter-city youth in gardening projects.
Evaluation of Raspberries Grown in High Tunnels for a Northern Climate.
Project Number: FNC04-529.
Lois Hoffbauer. Duluth, MN
Lois Hoffbauer of Duluth received a grant to use a high tunnel to provide Duluth customers a longer raspberry season. Raspberries are a high-value product in Duluth, where the Zone 3 short growing season makes visitors to the farmer’s market hungry for every bit of summer sweetness they can find. Hoffbauer heard about Penn State’s experimental use of perennials under tunnels and wants to see how it will work in Minnesota. Hoffbauer will compare high tunnel yields to yields of raspberries not under the tunnel.

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Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships

The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships fund projects that sustain Minnesota's natural resource-based communities and industries by addressing community-identified agriculture, natural resources, and tourism issues in partnership with the University of Minnesota. The RSDPs are frequent collaborators in high tunnel research carried out by the University of Minnesota Extension, Department of Horticulture, and Research and Outreach Center researchers.

Project Title, Author, and Funder Project Description
Using High Tunnels to Extend the Growing Season in Northern Minnesota.
Terry Nennich, Crookston MN.
Funded by Northwest Region Partnership.
The purpose of this project is to conduct research, demonstrations and education with high tunnels for the 2007 production season. Research will be conducted in the areas of plant nutrient usage and soil depletion in a closed organic system. Varieties, spacing’s and intercropping of other crops will also be incorporated into the tunnel production system.
Raspberry High Tunnel Education Outreach.
Steve Poppe, West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN.
Funded by West Central Region Partnership.
Goals of this 2008 project are to 1) share research results with food producing farmers, master gardeners, local foods advocates, and other interested groups; 2) share information with growers about crop suitability and production practices for high tunnels through workshops and presentations; 3) increase interest in locally produced fruits within the community and region through events at WCROC and UMM campus.
Primocane-fruiting Raspberry Production in High Tunnels.
Shengrui Yao. North Central Research and Outreach Center, Grand Rapids, MN.
Funded by the Northeast Region Partnership
Objectives of this 2008-2009 project were to compare high tunnel raspberry growth and production characteristics with field grown raspberries; identify pest and disease problems of raspberry in high tunnels; evaluate potential winter damage to primocane raspberries in high tunnels; evaluate five primocane raspberry varieties; transfer knowledge to high tunnel growers in northeast Minnesota.

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Sow the Seeds Fund

Sow the Seeds, a project of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in partnership with the Wedge Co-op, has issued a variety of small grants to support farmer education and outreach on season extension for fruit and vegetable production in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Season extension strategies like low-tech hoop house/high tunnel structures enable farmers to start growing earlier in the spring and extend their harvest later into the fall.

Project Title and Author Project Description
High Tunnel Construction Workshop. (PDF, 819 kb)

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI)

View YouTube videos of the event
PFI will organize a two-day on-farm high tunnel construction workshop at Abbe Hills Farm. The workshop will address topics ranging from site selection, site preparation, orientation of hoop house structures and actual construction. Adam Montri, Hoophouse Project Manager at Michigan State University, will lead the event.
Farmer-taught High Tunnel Field Day.
(PDF, 3.3 Mb)

Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association
The Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association, in partnership with the Silver Creek Institute, will host an on-farm season extension field day. The field day will be farmer-taught and will showcase season extension options, production performance, return on investment, and other aspects related to floating row covers, plastic and other ground mulches, low tunnels and high tunnels.
Scholarships for Growing Power Workshops.

Growing Power
Growing Power will provide scholarships for five limited resource farmers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and/or Iowa to attend a Growing Power weekend workshop in Milwaukee, Wis. The workshops include: Living Biological Growing Systems—An Innovative Approach to Sustainable Production, Hoop House Construction, Year Round Production and Marketing.
On-Farm Greenhouse Workshops

Land Stewardship Project (LSP)

10 Things to Re-Think as you Build a Greenhouse and Grow (PDF, 402 kb)
LSP will host two on-farm workshops in southeast Minnesota. Each workshop will take place on a farm where a greenhouse is already established or is being built, and will be followed by facilitated "farmers-for-farmers" troubleshooting roundtables. Workshop presentations include: Establishing a Budget, Fertility/Soil, and Design/Construction. The project will also generate a tip sheet for prospective greenhouse growers and will support post-workshop networking among participating farmers.
Extending the Market Season Workshops

University of Wisconsin—Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (UW-CIAS)
UW-CIAS will coordinate two 6-hour workshops in Wisconsin on ways to extend the marketing season by selling storage crops like carrots, potatoes and onions through the winter. The workshops will cover storage requirements of different crops, variety selection, post-harvest handling practices for long-term storage, how to build sound and energy efficient storage facilities, and marketing strategies. The workshop will feature presentations from growers, along with UW faculty and staff.
Season Extension Training Sessions

Minnesota Food Association (MFA)

Greenhouse Propagation Strategies (PDF, 347 kb)
MFA will provide technical assistance and training to socially disadvantaged farmers in rural Minnesota and western Wisconsin on season extension and the use of hoop houses. MFA's Big River Farms Training Program will deliver three training sessions between August and November 2009 focused on season extension planning and preparation, production, and harvest management.

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