Spotlight on Woodside Raspberries – “The concept of the high tunnel is wonderful…”
When Chuck and Barbara Schulstad retired from teaching in Fargo, ND and moved back to the family farm in Erskine, MN, their only previous experience was running a pick-your-own raspberry patch and small garden. They now own and operate the family farm, Woodside Raspberries, a 160-acre property that was purchased by Chuck’s grandfather in 1913.
Living in the Northern US, fruit and vegetable production can be tricky if you don’t have the right resources. Attending trainings and conferences can provide valuable information on the best practices for bountiful harvests in your area. Chuck and Barb found this to be true when they were introduced to the concept of high tunnels in 2005 during a Master Gardener core class.
Finding the idea of using high tunnels very interesting, the couple decided to purchase one of their own. Says Barb, “The person who taught the vegetable section of our Master Gardener core class mentioned Growers Supply to us and we called for a catalog.” They purchased their first Premium Round Style High Tunnel in 2007 and currently use it for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other small produce. In 2010, the University of Minnesota provided Woodside Raspberries with a second high tunnel to be used for a four-year study on raspberries and blueberries, of which Chuck and Barbara are the on-site managers and administrators.
As Chuck and Barb saw the benefits of high tunnel production, they knew that they wanted to keep expanding. They purchased another high tunnel through the NRCS “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” high tunnel program and also share it with the University of Minnesota. This building is used for an apple tree study managed by the couple, and for growing produce that they can bring to market.
Chuck explains, “The environment created by the tunnels accelerates the growing season and extends it several weeks before and after our typical Zone 3 season.” He continues, “We see far less problems with insects and bugs than we did when we were growing outdoors.” Not only is the growing season longer, with improved conditions, but they are finding they can grow much more than they had originally planned. They are growing garlic, onions and carrots, among many other crops.
Besides the larger variety of crops they can now grow, Chuck and Barb have seen quite an increase in the quality of what they are producing. “Raspberries and strawberries are gorgeous in the tunnels, which allow us to bring them to market even when the outdoor season is over.” Continues Chuck, “The concept of the high tunnel is wonderful and really enhances the growing season here in ‘short season’ country. Our high tunnels are working out very well!”
Do you have any tricks for extending your growing season?