High tunnels at High Latitudes: Sustainable Crop Production for Alaska

2016 Annual Report for EW15-022

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $32,315.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Casey Matney
University of Alaska Fairbanks

High tunnels at High Latitudes: Sustainable Crop Production for Alaska


This proposal will provide training for Alaska agriculture professionals working with high tunnel producers in a workshop scheduled for autumn 2015 in Kenai. In addition to all Alaska agriculture/horticulture Extension agents, staff from other in-state agriculture organizations will be invited to attend. Topics will include aspects of sustainable practices including nutrient management, integrated pest management, crop selection, irrigation, and construction/maintenance considerations. As a part of the workshop, a farm tour in Kenai will showcase several sustainable high tunnel operations. There will also be a brainstorming session to identify education and research priorities related to high tunnel production in high latitudes. Following the workshop, Extension agents will create a series of high tunnel publications based on the needs identified in the brainstorming session and the information learned at the workshop. Each extension agent will also utilize the knowledge gained in the workshop to offer high tunnel trainings to producers in each district served by an agent.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1 – provide a professional development workshop to train eight Extension agents and other agriculture professionals on all relevant aspects of high tunnel production at high latitudes to enable provision of valuable technical assistance to producers. Anticipated date of completion: October 1, 2015

Objective 2 – prepare a series of Extension bulletins on high tunnel production at high latitudes to be used by producers across Alaska. At least four publications, in bulletin format, will be created by the eight agriculture/horticulture Extension agents. A final list of publications to prepare will be selected at the workshop based on needs identified during a brainstorming session. Anticipated date of completion: June 30, 2016

Objective 3 – disseminate information learned with each Extension agent offering a high tunnel workshop within a year to current and prospective producers in their district. The workshops will increase attendees’ knowledge of high tunnel production methods leading to adoption of practices that reduce costs and improve natural resource management. Anticipated date of completion: September 30, 2016


Objective 1 – The planned for workshop with the Alaska agriculture and horticulture extension agents occurred on September 8 and 9, 2015. The agenda for the meeting and the participants are listed below.

Objective 2 – This project will continue during 2016 with the production of a high tunnel bulletin. This objective is waiting for second year funding.

Objective 3. Each of the agriculture and horticulture extension agents (there are 8 of them) will be offering training courses for high tunnels in their respective districts in 2016 and 2017. This objective is waiting for second year funding.

Agenda: High Tunnel 101 for Agents and Partners
September 8th & 9th 2015
Multi- Purpose Room, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Kenai Peninsula

Tuesday September 8th 2015
9:00-9:30 AM – Greetings and Introductions

9:30-11:00 AM – Construction considerations, irrigation techniques, water monitoring.
Jeff Rypka, NRCS Kenai

11:00-11:15AM – Break

11:15-11:45AM – NRCS and the EQIP program in Alaska, funding, distribution and the future of this popular program.

Meg Mueller, NRCS

11:45-12:15PM – Paperwork requirements for EQIP applicants, what does Extension need to know?
Craig Sanders, NRCS Homer

12:15-1:00PM – Lunch on Site (provided)

1:00-1:45PM – Soils, an indepth look at the local soils supporting plant growth
Pam Voeller, NRCS Kenai

1:45-2:15PM – Nutrient Management Analysis reports, common trends
Mingchu Zhang, SNRE

2:15-2:30 – Break

3:00-4:00PM – Agronomics of High Tunnel production
Merriam Karlsson, SNRE

4:00-4:45PM – IPM for High Tunnels, Insect monitoring, disease and weeds.
Jessie, Janice, Darcy, Steve, etc.

4:45-5:00PM – Partnerships. Who are your partners and how to strengthen communications?
NRCS, Soil & Water Districts, Plant Materials Center, Cooperative Extension personnel

Wednesday September 9th

8:00-5:00 – High Tunnel Tours – Lunch and transportation included
Airport drop off to head home

Participant List of Attendees and tour sites

Merriam Karlsson, School of Natural Resources and Extension
Mingchu Zhang, School of Natural Resources and Extension
Steven Seefeldt, CES Fairbanks
Darcy Etcheverry, CES Fairbanks
Darren Snyder, CES Juneau
Steve Brown, CES Mat/Su
Julie Riley, CES Anchorage
Jessie Moan, CES Anchorage
Phil Kaspari, CES Delta Junction
Leif Albertson, CES Bethel
Casey Matney, CES Kenai
Janice Chumley, CES Kenai
Glenna Gannon, Tanana Chiefs

Craig Sanders, Homer NRCS
Jeff Rypka, Kenai NRCS
Pam Voeller, Kenai NRCS
Meg Mueller, Southcentral NRCS
Todd Steinlage, Plant Materials Center
Heidi Chay, Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District
Terra Schmidt, Homer Soil and Water Conservation District
Jessica Guritz, Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District
Brad Casar, Homer Soil and Water Conservation District

Field Tour-

Don Thompson, raised beds, innovative growing – Kenai
Rita Jo Shoultz, Commercial production – Homer
Don McNemara, Oceanside Farms, csa gardens, season extension, – Homer
Brian Olson, Alaska Berries, high tunnels, field grown berries, winery.
Velma Bittick, Arena Acres, Cooperative and Farmers Market – Homer

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Feedback from the meeting was excellent and all of us think that we have a better understanding of how to work with producers who are buying or managing high tunnels. Our one-on-one talks with growers using high tunnels are much better informed.


Heidi Rader

Tribes Extension Educator
University of Alaska Fairbanks
122 1st Ave
Suite 600
Fairbanks, AK 99701-4899
Office Phone: 9074528251
Janice Chumley

Program Aide
University of Alaska Fairbanks
43961 K-Beach Road
Suite A
Soldotna, AK 99669-9728
Office Phone: 9072625824
Darcy Etcheverry

Program Aide
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 758155
Fairbanks, AK 99775-8155
Office Phone: 9074742422