Sustainable Living through High Tunnel Growing
This guest blog post is brought to you by Dan Mielke, a long-time customer of Growers Supply who uses our high tunnels to produce fresh food for his family, as well as to sell for a profit. High tunnels not only helped Mielke to generate more produce each year, but have also become a large part of his everyday life on the farm.
As homesteaders, my family and I have learned to live off our 75 acres of land in order to provide ourselves with food, shelter and other necessities. Due to the fact that our farm is located in Wisconsin, we used to have to wait until May or June to start planting. This creates a huge issue when much of the food our family eats, along with the food we sell at the farmers’ market, can’t be harvested until well into the summer months.
We knew that we needed a change in order to produce a larger quantity of produce during a longer portion of the year and found that change in high tunnel growing. When we first invested in a high tunnel, my children were growing up and moving away from the farm, meaning my wife and I would be forced to do all the labor that the whole family once did. We needed to find a less labor-intensive way of farming, otherwise we would have been forced to quit growing altogether.
We have implemented high tunnel growing on our farm for crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, carrots, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and more. Basically anything we used to grow outside can now be grown in a high tunnel. All the crops we have tried in the tunnels seem to grow well, but I would say tomatoes, peppers and strawberries show an exceptional yield increase when grown inside.
High tunnel agriculture has allowed me to spread my work load over a longer period of time so that I can get more done in a year. My work is no longer interrupted by rain or snow, and disease pressure is greatly reduced in the high tunnels. These tunnels give me a higher yield of marketable, locally grown crops, which means less waste and more profit. I have also never had blight in my tunnels in all the years I have been farming this way, whereas before the tunnels, losing crops to blight was quite common. All the benefits of our high tunnels have proven that our large decision to purchase our first tunnel has been one of the most profitable decisions we ever made.
I would highly recommend high tunnel growing to other homesteaders or people who are simply interested in producing more locally grown food through sustainable agriculture. I am so happy with our tunnels and every positive benefit we hoped to achieve far exceeded our wildest expectations.
Bio: Dan Mielke, a proponent of sustainable agriculture, is a co-founder and founding president on the board of directors for Midwest Organic Services Association, an international certifying agency for the organic farming industry. He is also a USDA SARE grant recipient for high tunnel agriculture as a means to increase productivity in produce and berry farming. Mielke is a strong advocate of “buy local, buy fresh,” an effort to help small farm families increase the profitability of their farms in a world where these farmers have been losing out to corporate farming practices.