Solar-Heated High Tunnels Changed Life on Forest Glen Farm
This guest blog post is brought to you by Dallas Flynn, a long-time customer of Growers Supply who realized growing could become more than just a passion if the Minnesota growing seasons were longer. Flynn uses Growers Supply’s ClearSpan™ High Tunnels to grow produce for his family and to sell to the finest restaurant near his home in Frazee, Minnesota.
Ever since my military tour in Vietnam, I have had an affinity towards gardening. When the mother of my children passed away and I remarried a woman who also loved to garden, I decided to purchase a farm so the kids would have a place to play. In 2006, my wife and I built a home on the property along with some garden plots, and growing became a part of our everyday life. After gardening for some time on our farm, Forest Glen, we knew the 90-day growing season of Northern Minnesota was not long enough to be growing in a garden exposed to the elements. The University of Minnesota saw an opportunity to research high tunnel growth and gave us a 20’ wide by 24’ long ClearSpan High Tunnel from Growers Supply.
When we noticed our growing season was extended from 90 days to 150 days, we fell in love with the high tunnel and decided it was time for another. We wrote a grant to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and designed a 30’ wide by 48’ long ClearSpan High Tunnel that incorporated solar energy to keep the soil warm. We pump 200 to 250°F air into the soil to warm the growing area without overheating the crops. On a clear day where the outside temperature is well below freezing in Frazee, the temperature inside the high tunnel can be more than 80°F.
Since the second high tunnel was built, life has changed on Forest Glen Farm. We no longer grow simply to provide the family with fresh vegetables and to have something to sell at the farmers’ market. Now, we are a large supplier for the finest restaurant in our area because of our extended growing season, the variety of crops we can produce and the increased size of our harvests. We are at least two months ahead of all the other growers around here. Normally tomatoes are ready in August, but we are harvesting them in June. Also, when we used to garden outside we would pick about five to ten pounds of decent tomatoes from our plants, but now we are getting up to fifty pounds in the high tunnels with no blemishes at all.
I have grown cabbage, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, kale, spinach and more in the tunnels—everything you need for a high-end restaurant. Since everything I was growing in the high tunnel was so successful, I decided to experiment with some trees. I have grown pears, peaches, apricots, sweet cherries and more in these tunnels, which is unheard of for this area. I can’t even describe how juicy my produce is. It is just so plentiful and wonderful.
Although the first high tunnel was purchased for us, when it was time to get another we knew we would be shopping with Growers Supply. You can’t beat the customer service from their company or the quality of their materials. I have never been shorted on parts. If anything, I always get a few extra. I am so impressed with ClearSpan High Tunnels, I can’t help but talk about them with my friends. Whenever I have old Growers Supply catalogs lying around the house, I hand them out to people. Since we got our second high tunnel on the farm, we have had 3,000 visitors come to check it out. I preach this company! Everyone at Growers Supply has been good to me. I am a true believer in what they do.
Bio: Dallas Flynn lives on and owns Forest Glen Farm in Frazee, MN, where he combined high tunnel growing with solar energy to extend his growing season and grow a large variety of crops. Flynn is a father, husband and avid grower, as well as a dairy farmer. Flynn is well-known in his area for being the first to use a solar heated high tunnel with a heat sink, and happily shares his knowledge with other growers looking to get a similar high tunnel.