Increasing late winter/early spring sales for market gardeners through season extension and improved storage options

2015 Annual Report for ONE14-213

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $12,497.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Monika Roth
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Increasing late winter/early spring sales for market gardeners through season extension and improved storage options


This project is focused on improving the quality and quantity of fresh local produce available for sale through direct markets in late winter/early spring in South Central NYS. Year round farmers markets and increased demand for local produce by consumers, retailers and restaurants provide additional marketing opportunities. Farmers are working to meet the demand but many lack infrastructure to extend the season and store produce for longer season sales. Infrastructure needs include hoop houses and proper cold storage facilities.

This project has worked to address this need by hosting workshops for farmers on the technical aspects of season extension using hoophouses and proper storage. During 2015 our focus was on season extension and proper use of hoophouses. Through a season long series of on farm workshops, newer farmers (new to hoophouses) learned about facility and crop management practices. A total of 45 people attended an introductory workshop and the monthly hoophouse tours involved from 8-20 people depending on the topic. A survey was conducted at the end of the season to assess what people learned; and we plan to follow up again before the project ends in April. We are now turning our attention to the cold storage aspect of this grant and are planning a winter workshop focused on maintaining crop quality in cold storage.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The following project components will enhance the sustainability of local farming.


  1. Assess current and potential producer capacity for early/late season production;
  2. Focus outreach and technical assistance related to season extension through hoop house use
  3. Work with farmers to identify cold storage needs, facility access and development, and proper storage practices
  4. Help farmers link to buyers through farmer buyer networking.



Key accomplishments in 2015 –

The focus of our work during this past year has been on increasing the efficient use of High Tunnels for season extension. 

A planning group was assembled to develop a year long program focused on high tunnel management.  The group included: 
Aaron Munzer, Farmer
Melissa Madden, Farmer
Dean Koyanagi, Farmer
Becca Rimmel, Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming, Educator
Michele Kline, Hort Extension Educator
Monika Roth, Ag Extension Educator
Patrick Barry, NRCS – provided high tunnel grant info. 
The high tunnel workshops were jointly coordinated by CCE South Central NY Area Ag Program, Local farmers, and Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming. 

We started meeting in Fall 2014 to set the agenda for a year long high tunnel learning program.  To guide us in our planning, we constructed a survey that was sent to our area farmer list of contacts.  19 total people responded.  The survey results showed that nearly half of respondents were using high or low tunnels and a majority of those not using high tunnels were planning to start in 2015.  (Survey results attached)

The initiative involved organizing an introductory high tunnel workshop in February followed by monthly on farm workshops that addressed topics identified by the farmers responding to the survey. 

Held the Introduction to High Tunnels for Extended Season Crop Production on Feb. 22 at Stick and Stone Farm on Rt. 96 outside of Ithaca – original date (2/9) and location was changed due to constant winter snow storms! The purpose of this workshop was to provide an overview of farming with high tunnels.  Cornell High Tunnel specialists were the lead instructors for this class along with farmers sharing their experiences, ending with a tour of the tunnels at Stick and Stone Farm.  (class schedule attached)

Held Monthly high tunnel workshops at area farms:
The programs included the host farmer as instructors and a relevant Cornell specialist.
March 8 – Soil Fertility
April 12- Tomato Grafting
May 10 – Fruit Production in High Tunnels
June 14 – Summer Crop Management and Care
July 12 – Pest ID and management
September 13 – Specialty Crops – Aquaponics, Microgreens, Ginger
October 11 – Fall/Spring Greens Production
November 8 – Putting it all together – Financial Planning & Marketing
(See attached syllabus for details)

A post-course assessment has been sent to all participants to understand the knowledge gained. 

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Key insights from the survey on high tunnel use: (19 responses)
58% respondents were using high or low tunnels -most had limited experience producing a variety of crops including greens, summer vegetables, and berry crops.
Strong interest in high tunnel use was evident based on 15 of 19 people who indicated they were planning to set-up high tunnels in 2015.  63% felt they had a mid level of understanding of tunnels. 
Topics of interest/concern:
-construction details/types of tunnels, site/drainage, snow load
-crop management:  soil mixes, irrigation, controlling pests, year round growing
-tunnel operation: managing crops during fall temperature fluctuations; managing humidity
A key insight was that most of the respondents were new to high tunnels or were still experimenting with what crops to grow. None felt they were using tunnels to their fullest potential. 

Key insights from Workshops:
A total of 56 people registered for the Introduction to High Tunnels Class and received the class handouts and follow up consultation as needed.  Bad weather forced us to reschedule the intro class so that only 22 of the folks originally interested were able to attend. 
The class provided an introduction to all of the topics of interest listed above including construction and management, as well as some insights into economics and marketing. 
The monthly workshops attracted a smaller group of attendees than the Intro class and as the season progressed, the numbers attending started to drop…starting out with 21 and dropping to  as low as 8 for some sessions. 
Key insights from monthly workshops at farms – hearing both the farmer and Cornell specialist at the monthly workshops provided invaluable insight for attendees.  For many of the sessions we included a hands-on component so people could learn soil testing, grafting, seeding, scouting, etc.  All workshops were highly rated.  Most people stated they felt much more comfortable with all aspects of high tunnel management as a result of the workshop series.  Several also applied for the NRCS High Tunnel Grant funding. 


Matt LeRoux
CCE Educator
CCE Tompkins County
615 Willow Ave.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072722292
Steve Holzbaur
General Manager
Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub
210 Gerald Moses Drive
Groton, NY 13073
Office Phone: 6072791204
Doug Newman
Buried Treasure Organic Farm
808 Clark St. Extension
Groton, NY 13073
Office Phone: 6072204044
Avi Miner
CCE Educator
CCE Tompkins County
615 Willow Ave.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072722292
Sharon Tregaskis
Treegate Farm
1401 Mecklenburg Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6073420012
Jenny Caldwell
Crooked Carott CSK
344 West King Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072803652
Aaron Munzer
Plowbreak Farm
6200 Deer Run Lane
Trumansburg, NY 14850
Office Phone: 8455947126
Dean Koyanagi
Treegate Farm
1401 Mecklenburg Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072278797
Dana Stafford
General Manager
Regional Access
1609 Trumansburg Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6073195150
Stephen Belyea
Dept of Ag
Maine Dept of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
18 Elkins Lane
27 State House Station
August, ME 04553
Office Phone: 2077642105
Tony Mazolino
Marz Farm
3624 Wilson Creek Rd.
Berkshire, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6076578534