Locally, the use of high-tunnels has increasingly becoming a part of the agricultural landscape for farms looking to extend their growing seasons both into the late winter and early autumn. Elizabeth Buck, a Program Aide at the Genesee Cornell Cooperative Extension, said about half of the area’s high-tunnel farms are less than two years old, with the rest rarely older than 10 years.

Last week more than four-dozen perspective and newly-launched high-tunnel farmers participated in a two-day workshop at the Genesee County CCE.

Judson Reid, a senior extension associate on the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s High-Tunnel Team, said the workshop was intended to show the opportunity high-tunnel farming can offer to local growers.

“We wanted to show it’s possible to produce leafy greens in western New York winters,” Reid said. There’s water availability and good soil to sustain year-round systems ... most people can extend their season by four, six, eight weeks in the fall and spring.”

Jonny Wiedel of Mud Creek Farm in Victor was among the four-dozen farmers to tour Bowman and Hill’s high-tunnel farm as part of the two-day workshop. Mud Creek Farm currently has one greenhouse for transplant crops and Wiedel said he wanted to find out if high-tunnels were a worthwhile investment.

“I was really impressed by the huge variety of produce they make; and that they can make more money in the winter than in the summer,” Wiedel said. “It’s an expense, but you can extend the season and use it as a protection for crops — that makes it worthwhile.”

The workshop stressed the both the challenges and work needed to successful operate a high-tunnel farm, from treating leaf diseases to making sure the tunnel’s tomatoes don’t weigh down the structure.

Amy Ivy, a vegetable specialist on the High-Tunnel Team, said growers should think of the investment like owning a racehorse. It takes more effort, but the results are higher.

“If you grow well, you can do more with less plants and get a lot out of it,” Ivy said.

Mark Printz, the manager of Canticle Farm in Allegany, has used high-tunnels to grow winter greens like spinach and Swiss chard and summer crops like cucumbers and tomatoes for seven years. Printz said the extended season allows him to maintain a connection to the farm’s community supported agriculture customers and run a high-demand winter market.

“It enables me to have year-round employees and not have to make all my income during the summer,” said Printz, who is still harvesting produce. “It takes longer to re-grow (in the winter), but the product is sweeter and tastier. It’s fresh and holds longer.”

Source: http://thedailynewsonline.com