User/Grower Educational Materials and Training for Polyethylene Film High Tunnel Winter Production and Harvesting of Organic Salad Greens and Vegetables

2005 Annual Report for LNC02-217

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $43,274.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $20,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
John Biernbaum
Michigan State University

User/Grower Educational Materials and Training for Polyethylene Film High Tunnel Winter Production and Harvesting of Organic Salad Greens and Vegetables


The focus of the project shifted to greenhouses for school gardening at an elementary school. Teachers and students were involved in building and with guidance, students were able to sow seeds and harvest large quantities of baby leaf salad greens, radishes, turnips and other crops for lunches and class activities throughout the academic year. Garden activities supported the standard curriculum. Additional crops were sown in February for spring harvests. Greenhouse Garden workshop participants from across Michigan learned how to develop and support programs at their schools. Additional workshops for farmers were presented in LaCross, WI and at MSU.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The stated outcomes proposed were:

1) One hightunnel (greenhouse) will be built at a farm and one at an elementary school and the farmer and teachers will be assisted with purchasing necessary equipment and seeds for producing crops. The farmer or teachers will explain their experiences to workshop participants.

2) Farmers and school garden program coordinators will be provided the information necessary to purchase and construct a polyethylene film covered hightunnel (greenhouse) and organically produce winter greens and vegetables for local sales or school lunches. The primary method of information dissemination will be a two day workshop including a field trip, PowerPoint Presentations and a detailed manual.


Objective 1. Hightunnel construction at Gunnisonville began during August. The initial frame construction was completed by teachers, staff and students assisted by new farmers at Giving Tree Farm and the MSU-SOF. An important addition to the program occurred when an MSU graduate student working with the PI on the MSU-SOF project expressed the desire to do her thesis project at the school. Emily Reardon took responsibility for coordinating activities in the greenhouse and student experiences related to planting, maintaining and harvesting crops. A complete report of the activities is available in her thesis. Necessary tools and equipment, including inside frost covers, irrigation equipment and hoses to reach the greenhouse from the school were purchased with grant funds.

Objective. 2. Additional material about school gardening and how a greenhouse can maximize the experience during the academic year was prepared. The graduate student project allowed teachers to take a serious look at gardening and resulted in many motivated students (but mostly intimidated teachers). The “Greenhouse Gardening for Schools” workshop was held on March 25 and the final participant count was 41. The workshop was one day and held at the school. Many of the participants were support personnel or parents interested in school gardening. An additional one day workshop was presented at the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference in cooperation with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) Organic University. There were 60 participants and co-presenters were Bill Warner and Judy Hagerman from Snug Haven Farm in Wisconsin. Based on post-workshop surveys, participants were very satisfied with the format and content of the workshops.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The greenhouse garden helped 200 students at Gunnisonville School experience growing and eating fresh vegetables throughout the academic year and provided a model for other schools to follow. The potential exists to have students motivate parents to purchase vegetables like they grow in school from local farmers.

The “School Greenhouse Gardens” workshop stimulated interest in school gardens in general and helped to identify a need for additional support and educational programming. We know of two additional greenhouse gardens that have been built at Michigan elementary schools.

The MOSES Organic University workshop with 60 participants and a waiting list was a strong indicator of the demand for information about year-round farming. While we are addressing many of the initial questions, there is still a need for more detailed schedules and recommendations which we will continue to work on developing.


Melissa Timm-Cook

Research Assistant
Michigan State University
Department of Horticulture
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5173555191