The Costs and Benefits of Winter High Tunnel Supplemental Heat and Row Covering

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $8,931.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Roots, Fruits and Shoots, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Dana Hilfinger
Roots, Fruits and Shoots, LLC

Information Products


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy)


  • Crop Production: greenhouses, high tunnels or hoop houses, row covers (for season extension), season extension
  • Education and Training: decision support system
  • Farm Business Management: labor/employment

    Proposal summary:

    Growing cold-tolerant crops in high tunnels during the winter is a low-input strategy to provide farmers additional revenue and improve farm cash flow, but there is limited information available about the cost/benefit of different management approaches to moderating the sub-freezing temperatures common during this season. We are interested in understanding whether the investment in supplemental heat to minimally heat a winter tunnel is economically viable. This project will evaluate the use of two different management practices - supplemental heat and row covers - in high tunnels on spinach and kale grown during the fall-winter at a farm located in Johnstown, Ohio. Crops will be planted across three dates in each planting cycle, enabling us to determine whether supplemental heat could allow for later fall plantings of winter harvested crops. Results from the trials will be presented through a local conference and on-farm tours, which we will publicize in collaboration with local service providers. A report of the results will also be posted on the farm’s website. These results will provide high tunnel farmers with information necessary to make informed decisions about infrastructure investments for winter high tunnel growing which can improve farmer quality of life and the farm’s bottom line.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Evaluate the effect on yield and revenue when providing supplemental heat versus row cover to fall/winter high tunnel crops seeded throughout fall/winter.
    • Determine the economic costs and management hours of using supplemental heat versus row cover for winter high tunnel crops.
    • Share findings with other winter tunnel users and farmers in the Upper Midwest through conference presentations, field days and an online report.


    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.