Over the three years of this project 8 Agricultural Service Providers will provide training to 75 RI farmers on construction and use of caterpillar tunnels. These farmers will mostly be small acreage farmers, probably farming a total of 200 acres in Rhode Island.
Most vegetable farms in Rhode Island are very small, often an acre or less. One method to increase production on small acreage is to extend the growing season with tunnels or greenhouses. Many small growers can not afford nor have the space for high tunnels or greenhouses. Rhode Island’s SARE project is to introduce small growers and their Agricultural Service Providers to caterpillar tunnels, also known as field tunnels. Agricultural Service Providers and growers will learn how to build caterpillar tunnels and how to grow crops using caterpillar tunnels.
The original plan for this project was that URI Cooperative Extension personnel, Heather Faubert and Andy Radin, would conduct one on-farm trainings per year for ASP and farmers where participants learn about the benefits of caterpillar tunnels and how to construct them. A second meeting each year would focus on crop production techniques for growing crops in caterpillar tunnels outlined in the Learning Outcomes.
Trainings would be held on RI working farms, with host farms recruited from a pool suggested by RI ASP and farmers. Rhode Island is considered to be divided into three areas: Northern, Southern, and Eastern and demonstration farms would be in a different area of the state each year.
After training workshops, ASP would be invited to visit farms where caterpillar tunnels have been constructed and are in use with key individuals Andy Radin and/or Heather Faubert to see firsthand the benefits of growing inside caterpillar tunnels. By seeing the caterpillar tunnels in use by growers and learning about growers’ experiences using the tunnels, the ASPs will be better able to advise other RI growers about constructing and using them.
ASPs would also receive a project-developed factsheet on how to build caterpillar tunnels, including the cost of materials needed for construction and where materials can be purchased, and how to manage crop production in the tunnels.
The course of this project shifted during the first year because during that time, years-long efforts to develop relationships with urban growers in the Providence area and service providers from community based organizations (CBOs) that support these growers began to bear fruit. One organization in particular, Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT), developed keen interest in the education this project is offering and they have become a key partner providing connection to growers and hosting workshops on their farms. SCLT started in 1981 and now owns or directly manages 21 community gardens in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls, and partners with schools, housing and community organizations to manage another 37 community gardens. SCLT owns or manages land used by 25 farmers, primarily African immigrants, to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers markets, food businesses, restaurants, and CSAs. They also operate three farms in Providence and Pawtucket where they practice and demonstrate bio-intensive, small-scale agricultural production.
A high amount of individualized effort is needed to work effectively with immigrant producers and their support organizations, and because of this, the target audience of this project was narrowed to personnel from SCLT and associated community based organizations and the urban growers they support. The format and educational goals of the project did not changed, but we focused efforts on training a smaller, more focused group of urban ag service providers and producers, and providing more assistance to the service providers for their farmer education.
Revisions are needed for the third year of this project as well as for the second year. During Year 2, caterpillar tunnels were not well utilized by the urban farmers. Feedback I received indicated that the tunnels are too small. So for Year 3, I will work with URI Professor, John Taylor, who is researching the use of modified high tunnels in urban farms in collaboration with Southside Community Landtrust. These tunnels will be 32′ x 14′, so much larger than the 12′ x 4′ caterpillar tunnels. Farmers will be able to stand up inside the larger tunnels.
Third Year milestones will be the same, just the tunnel size is different.
Milestones for year 1
1. 25 Agriculture Service Providers (APS) and 400 farmers receive advertisements for workshop on caterpillar tunnel construction and use. Workshop will be at a small vegetable farm in Rhode Island. (Spring 2018).
Meeting was advertised to growers and ASP through Southside Community Landtrust (SCLT). It was not the original intention to limit this workshop to the SCLT community, but we are developing an excellent relationship with Southside ASPs and growers and want to continue working closely with them. Most of the farmers are recent African immigrants and speak very little English. Mixing the immigrant farming community with the general farming community was discouraged.
SCLT started in 1981 and now owns or directly manages 21 community gardens in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls, and partners with schools, housing and community organizations to manage another 37 community gardens. SCLT owns or manages land used by 25 farmers to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers markets, food businesses, restaurants, and CSAs. They also operate three farms in Providence and Pawtucket where they practice and demonstrate bio-intensive, small-scale agricultural production.
2. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 20 farmers attend workshop to learn about caterpillar tunnel construction and how they can be used with a variety of crops. Thirty foot long caterpillar tunnel will actually be constructed at the workshop. Techniques for covering with different materials and venting will also be discussed and demonstrated. (Spring/Summer 2018).
We constructed 6 caterpillar tunnels at Manton Bend Community Farm in Providence with 5 ASP from Southside Community Landtrust. Eight growers attended the workshop. Most of the growers manage plots at Manton Bend Community Farm. It was a very successful workshop and growers want to build more tunnels in the spring!
3. 25 Agriculture Service Providers (APS) and 400 farmers receive advertisements for workshop on growing crops in caterpillar tunnels. Workshop will be at a small vegetable farm in Rhode Island. (Summer 2018).
Meeting was advertised to Southside Community Land Trust growers and organization. Transportation was provided for them to travel from Providence to URI in Kingston, RI on April 7th.
4. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 20 farmers attend workshop to learn how to grow various field crops in caterpillar tunnels. (Summer 2018).
ASP and growers from Southside Community Landscape came to URI Agronomy Farm and learned about early season crops that can grow in caterpillar tunnels on April 7th. All were impressed with early production despite very cold conditions and storms in March and early April.
Another meeting on constructing and using caterpillar tunnels is being planned for Summer 2018.
5. 2 ASP visit farm where workshop was held with Heather Faubert and/or Andy Radin and the host farmer. ASPs will witness growing conditions and learn about farmer's experiences and opinions on growing crops under caterpillar tunnel. Comparisons will be made to field grown crops. (Summer 2018).
Project leaders met with growers and ASPs at 3 different farms on 3 different evenings (June 11, July 9 and August 6). Field tunnels had not been constructed yet so the focus of these meetings was insect and disease identification. We discussed using field tunnels to decrease disease pressure and exclude some insect pests.
6. 26 attendees of the workshop receive and respond to a follow-up evaluation.
The project leader conducted in-person interviews about the value of the project with ASPs from Southside Community Landtrust and URI. The ASPs were thrilled with the training and two ASPs hosted their own workshop on constructing caterpillar tunnels on October 1st. I assisted with their meeting which the ASPs really appreciated.
The other ASP has received requests on attending a tunnel construction workshop in 2019.
It was more difficult to survey the growers since their English is limited. Probably a better indication is the smiles on their faces and them wanting to build more caterpillar tunnels and to find more land to grow on.
Milestones for year 2
Revised Year 2 Milestones reflect changes described above.
1. 2 Urban Agriculture Service Providers (APS) will agree to attend workshop on caterpillar tunnel construction and use at a community farm in Providence, RI. Urban ASP will communicate to African immigrant farmers about workshop and encourage their attendance. (Spring 2019).
2. 2 ASP and 8 farmers attend workshop to learn about caterpillar tunnel construction and use. Several 12 foot long caterpillar tunnels will be constructed at the workshop. (Spring 2019).
Two ASP and four Southside Community Landtrust African immigrant farmers participated in the workshop. We built/repaired and set up 9, 12′ caterpillar tunnels at Manton Bend Community Farm in Providence, RI. The tunnels are to be used by the four farmers at the workshop plus two more farmers that were not able to attend.
3. 3 urban ASP will be invited to attend workshop on growing crops in caterpillar tunnels. Urban ASP will communicate to African immigrant farmers about workshop and encourage their attendance. Workshop will be at the same community farm as the first workshop. (Spring 2019).
The April 1st workshop was primarily advertised at the March 26th workshop. Everyone at the March 26th workshop said they would be able to attend the April 1st workshop. Growers were told there would be free seedlings for them to plant in their tunnels.
4. 2 ASP and 8 farmers attend workshop to learn how to grow various cold season field crops in caterpillar tunnels. (Spring 2019).
This workshop did not turn out as planned. No one from Southside Community Landtrust (SCLT) or anyone else from URI was able to attend. The person from SCLT that has been most involved with this project got injured and couldn’t attend. Andy Radin, from URI, wasn’t able to attend either, but he and I grew seedlings for workshop attendees to plant in their caterpillar tunnels. We grew plants that would be appropriate to grow in April in tunnels. Seedlings included onion scapes, kale, several lettuces, and cabbage.
Five Manton Bend Community Farm farmers attended the workshop. After talking about the hardiness of the seedlings growers selected which seedlings they wanted to plant. Each farmer planted flats of different vegetables inside their tunnels and surrounding plots. There were plenty of plants so it was acceptable for them to try planting some outside of the tunnels as well as inside the tunnels.
Problems started when the growers were planting primarily outside of the tunnels. I went from grower to grower and suggested they plant inside the tunnels, and they said they would, but they wanted to plant outside first.
One major drawback of starting so early in the season is there no water at this farm or other farms with water provided by the City of Providence. I didn’t know this ahead of time or I would have brought containers of water. The seedlings needed water so I left the workshop to buy water. When I returned the growers were still planting outside the tunnels and I couldn’t persuade them to plant more seedlings inside the tunnels. I said the little seedlings would probably get killed by frost, but I couldn’t change their minds.
Most plants planted outside of tunnels died over the next several weeks when temperatures went down into the 20s.
Only 3 of the 9 caterpillar tunnels were planted with seedlings. These seedlings grew well, but I think very little was harvested out of any tunnel. I revisited Manton Bend Community Farm several times in April and May. One out of three planted tunnels was tended and doing well.
A major problem with season extension in the city is The City of Providence has to turn on the water at the gardens. They have a set schedule when they do this. My contact at SCLT said water would be turned on the first week in April. I’m not sure when water was turned on, but it was after April 12th. It’s very difficult to grow without a water source!
5. Same as original milestone: 3 ASP visit farm where workshop was held in Year 1 or Year 2 with Heather Faubert and/or Andy Radin and farmer. ASPs will witness growing conditions and learn about farmers' experiences growing crops under caterpillar tunnel. Comparisons will be made to field grown crops. (Summer 2019).
My contact at Southside Community Landtrust was busy doing other activities, so we only visited Manton Bend Community Farm together once after the March 26th workshop. We talked on the phone and emailed several times. I was concerned about plants dying from cold and also not being watered until too late in the season. I had to take his advice of, “Don’t sweat it.”
As I mentioned, he and I communicated several times over the growing season and he connected me with another potential Ag Service Provider working at a different urban farm in Providence. Through this other person I conducted two workshops in July at the Mt. Hope Sharing Garden at Billy Taylor Park. The workshops focused on pests and pest management. Even though this garden had no caterpillar tunnels, I thought this could an opportunity to work with another ASP in Providence. In addition to the ASP at Billy Taylor, I also worked with an intern working at the garden.
6. Workshop attendees (ASPs and farmers) will be interviewed about what they have learned and how the workshops have been helpful for them, what additional learning needs they have, and how they have been able to use what they’ve learned growing crops in caterpillar tunnels. (Fall 2019).
I interviewed the one SCLT employee and one African immigrant farmer about the project. The SCLT ASP and I discussed how some of the constructed tunnels should probably be moved to a different urban farm where they will hopefully get better used. We plan on moving tunnels during the winter of 2020.
The one farmer I interviewed said she is not interested in using the caterpillar tunnels again. She said they are too small.
7. ASP and farmers at Southside Community Land Trust receive a poster created by the project leader that shows steps involved with building a caterpillar tunnel and includes many pictures of the immigrant farmers. It will also show crops growing in the tunnels. (Fall 2019).
I don’t think this is such a good idea any more. I feel like we haven’t been successful with the caterpillar tunnels up to this point. Right now I don’t feel as though I should promote using caterpillar tunnels. For my third year of this project I plan to work with a URI professor, John Taylor, who is working with larger tunnels on urban farms.
Milestones for year 3
1. 2 Urban Agriculture Service Providers (APS) will agree to attend workshop on modified urban high tunnel construction and use at a community farm in Providence or another city in RI. Urban ASP will communicate to underserved farmers about workshop and encourage their attendance. (Spring 2020).
2. 2 ASP and 8 farmers attend workshop to learn about modified urban high tunnel construction and use. 32' x 14' modified urban high tunnels will be constructed at the workshop. Modified urban high tunnels will be USDA NRCS approved and information will be available about getting funding for NRCS practices (Spring 2020).
3. 3 urban ASP will be invited to attend workshop on growing crops in modified urban high tunnels. Urban ASP will communicate to underserved farmers about workshop and encourage their attendance. Workshop will be at the same community farm as the first workshop. (Spring 2020).
4. 2 ASP and 8 farmers attend workshop to learn how to grow various cold season field crops in modified urban high tunnels. (Spring 2020).
5. Same as original milestone: 4 ASP visit farm where workshop was held in Year 1 or Year 2 with Heather Faubert and/or Andy Radin and farmer. ASPs will witness growing conditions and learn about farmers' trials and triumphs of growing crops in modified urban tunnels. Comparisons will be made to field grown crops. (Summer 2020).
6. Workshop attendees (ASPs and farmers) participate in interviews with the project leader to share what they have learned and how the workshops have been helpful for them, what additional learning needs they have, and how they have been able to use what they’ve learned growing crops in modified urban high tunnels. (Fall 2020).
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Workshop / field days||2||2||4|
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Farmers / ranchers||28||9||0||0|
Year 1: ASP from Southside Community Landtrust held his own field tunnel construction workshop after attending the RI SARE workshop. I assisted with this workshop and one Nepalese grower intended to build a tunnel on some of his land.
Growers at both workshops learned about what crops grow best in caterpillar tunnels, especially late into the fall and early spring. One grower planted scallions and leeks in her tunnel constructed in September. Growers also learned about rolling up the sides of the tunnels when the weather was greater than 50 degrees and sunny.
Year 2: New ASP for Year 2 took pictures at pest workshop to share with urban students who work in the Mt Hope Sharing Garden in Providence.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
Over the three years of this project 8 ASP will provide training to 75 RI farmers on construction and use of caterpillar tunnels. These farmers will mostly be small acreage farmers, probably farming a total of 200 acres in Rhode Island
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Workshops and field days||1||2||3|
Year 1: Through in-person interviews I learned that one trained ASP conducted his own caterpillar building workshop after attending the RI SARE workshop. I assisted with this workshop and one Nepalese grower intended to build a tunnel on some of his land. The ASP also talked to several growers (at least 5) wanting assistance in building caterpillar tunnels in 2019. I talked to two other ASP present at the URI SARE trainings and they do not intend to hold their own tunnel building or use workshops.
Year 2: One ASP from Southside Community Landtrust is interested in moving caterpillar tunnels constructed in Year 2 to other urban farms where hopefully they will be better utilized than where they are now. He and I will do this together in the winter of 2020. The new ASP I worked with in 2019 trained students who volunteer at the Mt. Hope Sharing Garden. She used pictures of pests that I taught her about at the workshops in 2019. I assisted her in identifying insects in the pictures and writing descriptions of the insect damage and management techniques on urban farms.
Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers
Caterpillar tunnels were constructed on 5 growers’ plots, though only one started actually growing in tunnels in 2018. Three other growers have tunnels ready to go for 2019 growing. This information was obtained by helping 4 growers construct tunnels on their plots. The fifth grower told me he is going to construct at least one tunnel.
Additional Project Outcomes
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
I am extremely pleased with the outcome of Rhode Island’s first year of this project. We have made strong and stable relationships with Southside Community Landtrust and immigrant farmers they work with. We look forward to continuing this work in 2019 and 2020.
September 21, 2018 workshop on caterpillar tunnel construction.
Sept 21, nearly completed tunnel.
Sept 21. Success!
Oct 1, 2018 workshop put on by ASP.
I provided SARE outreach material at RI Fruit Grower Association meetings and the RI Raised Livestock Association Annual Meeting. I also talked individually to many growers about applying for SARE grower grants and two farmers I talked to submitted farmer grant applications for 2019.
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|