What did you do with the Traci C. LoBianco Winter Farmers’ Market Grant Award that you received in 2014?
We installed an irrigation system with a pump that pulls water from the Little Maquoketa River. We also put in a siphon system that pulls compost tea and organic fertilizer into the irrigation lines to bring more nutrients where they’re needed in the garden.
What is a high tunnel?
It’s a structure that helps extend the growing season for plants growing in the soil by protecting them from extreme cold while still allowing sunlight to get in. They aren’t heated like a greenhouse, and they’re made of simpler materials like wood or tube frames with plastic or translucent fabric stretched over them.
What are you growing in your high tunnel this year?
We already have a lot of spinach coming in, and there is a lot of seed in the ground that will continue to produce throughout this early spring season. We had some spinach and romaine lettuce that overwintered in the high tunnel without dying off, so we’ll have that at market each week. Our high tunnel is 30 x 72 feet. We were able to build it using some grants from the Natural Resource Conservation Service/USDA.
What future projects are you working on?
We’re working on getting certified organic which shouldn’t be a problem since we don’t use any chemicals or synthetic products. You can really get a premium price for some certified organic crops like garlic, potatoes, and onions. We’d also like to add some cold storage that would allow those crops to last deeper into the season.
What limits your growth and expansion?
Labor to work in the garden. It’s hard to invest in labor when the markets are still uncertain. Getting more restaurants and institutions to purchase locally-grown vegetables would add some stability. We need better distribution channels in this region to get products to these markets.