PILOT MOUNTAIN — Surry Community College recently completed a workshop at the Pilot Center to introduce local farmers to high tunnel green houses. The effort is a part of the school’s ongoing niche marketing classes to give farmers ways to extend growing seasons and better meet the demands of local markets for speciality crops.
SCC Occupational Program Director Terri Cockerham said the workshop was held through the school’s partnership with the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund. Horticulture Instructor Jeff Jones led the workshop which consisted of 11 participants from small and large local agricultural operations.
Surry Community has two high tunnel greenhouses. One is located at the Pilot Center and the other is on the school’s Dobson campus. Cockerham said high tunnels can be used to start crops early as well as to grow crops later in the season. She said this can be an advantage locally because crops can be grown and available for sale when outside producers are not able to provide fruits and vegetables. High tunnel greenhouses or hoophouses, are typically an unheated and more economical version of traditional greenhouses.
“I loved it when one participant told me she attended the workshop because her husband had built her a beautiful high tunnel green house and she had no idea whatsoever how to use it,” remembered Cockerham. “Some participants did not have a high tunnel greenhouse. Some found out their operation was too small to really benefit from this technique. The majority of them were from our Good Agricultural Practices group from Pilot Mountain Pride last year.”
Cockerham said the goal of the workshop is to provide knowledge farmers can use to cater to additional clients such as farmer’s markets and to offset the impact on local agriculture by the decline in tobacco growing.
“This is a newer trend in agriculture,” commented Horticulture Instructor Jeff Jones. “High tunnel greenhouses are starting to pop up in our area.” Jones said improvements in plastics have made the greenhouses even more attractive as well as better irrigation systems where precise watering can be delivered at the root level. Two constant benefits of high tunnel greenhouses are greater crop protection and climate control. He said these types of greenhouses can also be fixed for made so they can be moved to benefit other crops when needed.
“I am noticing mobile greenhouses are being used by a lot of smaller farms,” said Jones. “Others have found out they are really good for certain vegetable and herb crops as well. A lot of participants were interested in using high tunnel techniques to provide produce for farmer’s markets such as strawberries, bramble fruits, lettuce and Asian greens. Some participants were from larger growers looking to add on and expand.”
Jones said research to determine which varieties do better in high tunnel greenhouses is ongoing and many of the structures are designed so sides can be rolled up to allow pollinators to work the crop’s blooms.
“We are interested in hearing from the agricultural community on what sort of seminar’s like this we can organize to help them,” added Cockerham “We are able to provide this sort of service through the Project Scale Up grant and we welcome suggestions.”
Interested persons may call Cockerham at 336-386-3244 with ideas on topics for local agricultural workshops.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.