Indiana High Tunnel Initiative: Developing Extension-Farmer Partnerships for Education

Final Report for ENC08-106

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $74,981.68
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Amy Thompson
Purdue Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

The target audience for this project includes Purdue Extension Educators and other agency personnel who work with producers who are either currently involved in or considering adoption of high tunnel production systems.

Project Objectives:

Increased Educator awareness and knowledge of high tunnel production opportunities and limitations, increased Educator and producer collaborative teaching events and resource development.

Increased collaboration between Educators and producers on educational programs, increased number of programs, field days, publications and newsletter articles about high tunnels developed and presented, increased Educator skills in guiding producers through decisions about high tunnel production.

Introduction:

This project paired Extension Educators and High tunnel producers across the state of Indiana. Educators made frequent farm visits, help with farm work, collected data, etc.

funding was provided for Educator/Producer travel to professional development meetings, field days and other educational sessions were held.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Albert Armand
  • Roy Ballard
  • Linda Chapman
  • Kevin Cooley
  • Stacy Herr
  • Mark Kepler
  • Liz Maynard
  • Titus Oberholtzer
  • Jeff Phillips
  • Jeannie Scheeringa
  • J. Alvin Stoltzfus
  • Dan Wilson

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

Extension Educators and producers were paired at several geographic locations across Indiana to allow Extension educators to gain experience and knowledge in aspects of high tunnel construction, production and management. Data was collected, Field days were held as were sessions at the Indiana Horticultural Congress on High Tunnel production.

Outreach and Publications

No specific publications were developed as a part of this grant although data collected may be used in development of future high tunnel related project in Indiana.

Outcomes and impacts:

Increased communication between High Tunnel Growers and Purdue Extension Educators. Producers indicated that it helped their business because it required them to keep more complete records, increased their professional development and resulted in more opportunities for producers to serve as educators.

Increased knowledge and awareness of high tunnel growers in Indiana by some Extension Educators and Purdue specialists. Extension educators reported better understand of year round production possibilities in Indiana and requirements for high tunnel production and management.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Accomplishments
For 2009 Educators and local farmers built relationships and exchanged knowledge from frequent farm visits by individual extension educators to individual producers. As a part of these visits educators and producers discussed timing of high tunnel crop production, labor associated with specific activities, inputs and overall management of high tunnels for production and how those operations were incorporated into other on-farm activates. Producers also shared records associated with these activities.

In the summer of 2010 a total of 3 Field days were held attracting approximately 60 people including 9 Extension educators. The majority of others in attendance were private farmers. A blog regarding the project was also developed and can be found at wwww.indianhightunnels.blogspot.org. Additionally session specific to high tunnel production were held at the 2010 . The grant provided funding for invited speakers on High Tunnels to the sessions at the Indiana Horticultural Congress. Speakers covered 12 months of production in tunnels, bramble and berry production, construction and siting of tunnels and pesticide applications in tunnels. These sessions were very well attended averaging approximately 60 individuals per session with approximately 8 of those 60 being Extension Educators. Costs for educators associated with attendance at the Indiana High tunnel sessions was reimbursed by grant funds. Grant funds also covered costs for 2 partner-producers to attend a high tunnel workshop in Ohio. Attendance at this program prompted changes in production methods for both attendees and information from the workshop was shared with local educators and with the Purdue small farms team. Extension educators reported better understand of year round production possibilities in Indiana and requirements for high tunnel production and management

Accomplishments during the 2010 time period were limited by several factors including Purdue staff turnover, personal illness by the project PI. As well as illness of a county co-worker which resulted in additional job duties, un-related to this project for the PI and an office relocation.

For 2011 grant funds covered speaker participation at Indiana Horticulture congress. Speakers covered vegetable production, flower production and soil fertility. In addition personnel from the state NRCS answered producer questions regarding the lack of participation by Indiana in the High tunnel cost share program which the majority of state were participating. Funds were made available to cover Educator costs related to attending the sessions. sessions were well attended with approximately 40 in attendance with approximately 5 of the 40 being educators. In early Jan. 2011 one of the producer cooperators traveled to the Great Plains Growers Conference utilizing grant funds. As a result of that trip she was invited to be a speaker at that conference in 2012. Due to repercussions from the set-backs in 2010 other grant activity in 2011 was very limited.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Potential contributions

Although outcomes from the grant were quite different from those originally proposed there were positive contributions which resulted from these efforts.

Purdue Educators and specialists were made more aware of high tunnel production in Indiana which resulted in 2012 high tunnel session at the Indiana Horticultural congress even without SARE funding. Contact lists which were developed as a part of 2010 and 2011 Indiana Horticultural Congress and field days have increased Purdue Educators ability to market educational programs to high tunnel producers. Programs promoted utilizing these contacts include the 2012 Indiana high tunnel sessions at the Indiana Horticultural congress, High tunnel crop talks which are being held 2 time/month and have involved specialists, NRCS personnel and high tunnel growers. The blog www.indianahightunnels.blogspot.com is now being utilized for posting updates from the crop talks and other points of interest for high tunnel growers.

Producers indicated that it helped their business because it required them to keep more complete records, increased their professional development and resulted in more opportunities for producers to serve as educators.

Due to the relationship which one educator/producer pair developed as part of this program the pair will be traveling together to participate in assisting a small organic growers cooperative in Costa Rica with the development of business plans and organizational regulations in the fall of 2012.

Records collected as a part of this program have been shared with a specialist who hopes to develop some related resources at some point in the future.

Future Recommendations

This project was very broad and included a number of producers and cooperators. Staff turn-over and time limitations along with producer time limitations made completition of the project as proposed very difficult. In the future with such a large number of cooperators a PI which has dedicated time to the project would be beneficial to achieving proposed outcomes. Field Extension Educators who already have broad job duties would likely find it difficult to manage a project of similar scope if at least some of current duties are not eliminated.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.