An assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington has secured a nearly $130,000 state grant. The funding from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture will support James Farmer’s research on greenhouses known as high tunnels.
Farmer will work with researchers from Purdue University on using high tunnel methods for growing specialty crops. He hopes high tunnels can help extend growing seasons for Indiana crops including tomatoes, peppers and greens.
The high tunnel technique consists of using a metal or wood-framed greenhouse that is covered in thick plastic sheets. It uses solar collection to control the temperature, despite being unheated.
The research team led by Farmer will collect data on 400 high tunnel users, create case studies for 16 farms and conduct specialty crop trials. He says "Indiana, like most states, currently cannot meet the demand for locally produced specialty crops. This is all the more true during the colder months. The benefit of high tunnels to Indiana is economic, but they have an even greater benefit in regard to enhancing food security. Additionally, local specialty crops tend to be grown using organic and/or sustainable practices, which are more sustainable."
Farmer continues "our project will seek to understand how farmers receiving those grants (and subsequent high tunnels) are faring in the endeavor, what makes the infrastructure a positive contributor to the farm, and what can be shared with other farmers to realize the success. Secondly, this project seeks to understand how to increase production of specialty crops in the shoulder seasons (colder months) in order to contribute to the overall food system."