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Extension > Source - Winter 2013 > High tunnels extend Minnesota's growing season

High tunnels extend Minnesota's growing season

The inside of a high tunnel

Extension high tunnel research helps growers increase the quantity and variety of produce so Minnesotans can enjoy more locally grown food.

Early University of Minnesota Extension research on high tunnels has helped growers learn to build and use them for cold-climate fruit and vegetable production. Now the simple hoop houses also serve as a nursery for Extension horticultural research.

"The consistent weather inside of a high tunnel allows us to trial a larger variety of plants for more months out of the year," says Extension horticulture educator Terry Nennich, who helped bring high tunnels to Minnesota in 1999.

The University's first research high tunnels were built at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center in Crookston. By 2007, there were approximately 150 high tunnels in Minnesota; the state is now a national leader in this area with more than 800 in use.

While high tunnels are proven problem-solvers, they aren't without their challenges. Now, a three-year grant from the Blandin Foundation will help Nennich and other Extension researchers answer research questions on topics such as:

"High tunnels have extended the growing season in Minnesota, increasing farm-to-school programs and farmers markets," says Nennich. "Continuing research will make that food healthier, while boosting production and economic opportunities."

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