Thanks to the effort of two New Mexico State University faculty members and a SARE grant, the farmers of northern New Mexico are finding that vegetables can be successfully grown year-round in high tunnel greenhouses. Del Jiminez and Steve Guldan of the Alcalde Research Center received a SARE grant to construct different designs of high tunnels in several locations throughout northern New Mexico. Their findings show that vegetables such a spinach and lettuce can be grown in an inexpensive manner on a year-round basis.
Three types of high tunnel designs were tested in the study, and the results were exactly what the researchers anticipated. Some of the high tunnels had only a single layer covering or “skin” while others had two layers of covering, with a constant flow of air between the layers for insulation. Some of the high tunnels had two layers of covering as well as a row of water-filled black barrels along the north side of the greenhouse. Not surprisingly, the double layered high tunnels stayed warmer, and the residual heat provided by the solar-powered barrels also helped keep nighttime temperatures warmer. Another finding was that the barrels of water also moderated the daytime temperatures and kept growing conditions closer to ideal for growing the cool season vegetables.
As a result of the SARE-funded project, several more high tunnel greenhouses have been constructed in northern New Mexico. The outcome has been fresh, locally grown produce for farmers markets and family consumption. Steve Guldan said “the high tunnels have allowed area farmers to capitalize on the year-round farmers market in Santa Fe, where local produce commands a premium price during winter months.”
Season extension for growing local produce is an important issue throughout the Rocky Mountain region and the northern states. This Western SARE-funded project has shown that proper design and a modest price can combine to allow even the smallest farmers to produce healthy local food during all twelve months of the year.
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