- Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses
This project proposed to support the use of high tunnel greenhouses in Modoc County, California and surrounding areas. The main objectives of the project were to create a clearinghouse for regionally specific information about successful high tunnel ownership and use; to facilitate peer to peer technical assistance on topics ranging from selection and installation to pest management and marketing; and to measure the impact of a producer-driven users group on the success of high tunnel users.
The population in our area is geographically dispersed, so most producers using high tunnels are isolated from or unaware of other high tunnel users. This is the opportunity on which our project is based. The in-person meetings were popular and very successful, though electronic media (Facebook, web page, email newsletter) had little to no discernible impact, and throughout the project, few people volunteered in any capacity to help organize or oversee the group’s activities. Our conclusions are (1) that the use of high tunnels is growing; (2) both professional producers and interested gardeners enthusiastically attend tours, meetings, and workshops to learn about high tunnel techniques; and (3) the support of an organization with funding will allow the group to continue its activities, as volunteers have not stepped up.
The producers served by this project live and work in the Great Basin on what is sometimes referred to as the Sagebrush Steppe. Farms and towns are generally situated on land that is between 3,800 and 4,800 feet above sea level. The region gets about 15 inches of rain a year. Sagebrush and other scrub dot the landscape, and those who venture just a few miles from home may be rewarded with sightings of antelope, sage grouse, bighorn sheep, or wild horses. The area is dry and windy all year round with winters that can bring temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The summer sun, while intense, does not usually bring temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks to the northern latitude and the relatively high elevation. It can snow or freeze at any time of the year. The climate is well suited to forage production and grazing when water can be found. At the time this proposal was written, the area, like the rest of the western United States, was experiencing a prolonged and severe drought.
This environment is a perfect place to use high tunnel greenhouses to extend the growing season and to protect plants from strong desiccating winds, pests, and extreme temperatures. The residents of this region are independent, conservative, and rely on relationships and evidence for their decision-making. The Modoc High Tunnel Users Group was designed with these people in mind.
- Objective 1: To research best practices for the use of high tunnels in Modoc County, California and surrounding areas by identifying at least seven producers in the two year project period who have increased yield or improved management through the use of high tunnels and asking them to document and present their strategies.
- Objective 2: To encourage the use of best practices through electronic and in-person information sharing in a producer-driven users group meeting held quarterly over two years.
- Objective 3: To document and report on the scope and characteristics of networking and partnerships created in the producers’ community as a result of participation in the users group.
- Objective 4: To quantify the impact that the adoption of best practices has on producers’ harvest, season length, and economic success via surveys, questionnaires, and continued participation in the users group.