An Educational Program to Expand Season Extension of Horticulture Crops in West Virginia

2008 Annual Report for ENE08-109

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $52,517.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Lewis Jett
West Virginia University

An Educational Program to Expand Season Extension of Horticulture Crops in West Virginia


In October, 2008, the Professional Development Project “An Educational Program to Expand Season Extension of Horticulture Crops in West Virginia” was initiated.  Ten WVU Agriculture & Natural Resource Extension agents, 5 grower-educators, and 1 West Virginia State University educator participated in the first workshop focusing on high tunnel site selection, design and construction.  Participants met on a farm in southeast West Virginia which had established high tunnels.  This farm, owned and operated by Pam West, is the most successful high tunnel horticulture farm in WV.  A short, 1-hour lecture on the methods and goals of the professional development project was presented.  Attendees were given a written 12-question pre-test 2 weeks prior to the training event to establish a baseline level of knowledge on season extension technology.  Attendees returned the test at the beginning of the workshop.   At the workshop, attendees were given printed resource materials which included the Penn State High Tunnel Manual, The Hoophouse Handbook, High Tunnel Tomato Guide, High Tunnel Melon Guide, High Tunnel Strawberry Production and Extending the Season.  These materials will aid them in conducting future training events for growers in their regions.   At this farm, 2 high tunnels were currently in crop production and 1 high tunnel was in the process of being constructed.  Thus attendees had the opportunity to see the benefits of extending the growing season past the traditional first frost date in West Virginia.  Cropping systems, pest management, fertilization and marketable yields of tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and cut flowers were discussed. The attendees had the opportunity to assemble the bows of a high tunnel and bolt them into ground posts.  Methods to level the site and square the structure were discussed.  Soil fertility, which is the basis for successful high tunnel crop production, was also discussed in depth.  Images of high tunnel design, construction and crop production were collected, and are currently being added to a CD which will be provided to participants for future training.  

By December, 2008, two of the grower-educators had constructed a high tunnel on their respective farms.  By the end of the project, all grower-educators will have constructed at least one high tunnel (Milestone 5). Beginning in October, Dr. Jett, coordinator of this project, began construction of a 30 ft x 96 ft high tunnel in central West Virginia.  This high tunnel will be completed in spring 2009, and will serve as an educational tool for this project. Educators will have the opportunity to complete construction of this structure and make choices for cropping systems.  Dr. Jett is seeking 3-4 more grower-educators to be included in this project from various regions of the state and seeking other established high tunnel producers who can provide additional training sites for future workshops and tours.  Milestones 1 and 2 of the professional development project were accomplished in 2008. 

Objectives/Performance Targets

A comprehensive survey of extension- and grower-educators at the completion of this project will document the following:

1.   Extension- and grower-educators will have a significant increase in knowledge and skills specific to high tunnels and season extension technology when this project is completed in 2012. 

2. All extension- and grower-educators will have used information and resources derived from this training program in 6 regional workshops and field tours which they have facilitated or in which they have participated.  As a result of this program, approximately 200 West Virginia growers will be exposed to high tunnel technology and at least 20 growers will have adopted this technology on their respective farms by 2010.


In 2008, I accomplished 2 milestones for the professional development project. Attendance at the first training event included a broad spectrum of extension and grower educators. Two of the attendees were affiliated with West Virginia State University, a partner in this project. Five progressive growers who are poised to adopt season extension technology were also included in the project. Eighty percent of the WVU Extension Horticulture Team attended the first training project.

Milestone #2 was accomplished by conducting an educational event on a WV horticulture farm which has successfully integrated high tunnels into their production and marketing cycle. Initially, I planned to have 2 educational events in 2008, but an out-of-state tour was not feasible. Travel to the Penn State High Tunnel Facility will occur in spring 2009 and will showcase a myriad of cropping systems and high tunnel designs for the participants.

A baseline survey was conducted prior to the first training event in 2008 to quantify the knowledge and skill level of the participants. This survey will provide a baseline level in which to track impact of the professional development project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Since the project was initiated 2 of the grower-educators have used the information provided in the workshop to construct a high tunnel on their farms. One of the extension educators hosted a grower meeting in November, 2008 focusing on season extension technology. Educational materials provided from this professional development project were used in the program. Surveys of the attendees revealed a significant increase in knowledge and interest in season extension technology.