Tuesday, April 27, 2010

High Tunnel Production Workshop

On Monday, April 26, Matthew Bush and I carpooled to Clanton, Alabama to participate in a high tunnel production workshop offered through a collaboration between SSAWG (Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group) and ASAN (Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network).
Paul and Allison Wiediger of Au Naturel Farm were the presenters, but Paul presented alone on Monday because Allison went home to respond to a sudden and unexpected death in the family. May Allison's father rest in peace and may her family feel healing.
The day was split into two main sessions with a lunch break in between; first from 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM, then from 1:00 PM -4:00 PM. This was an excellent opportunity for many farmers who have just begun or are considering extending their seasons by growing in a hoop-house. Very few farmers that participated in the workshop were currently producing in a hoop-house. Mr. Wiediger's thorough and engaging presentation examined practically every aspect of hoop-house production, such as the construction and mechanics of building a hoop-house, Irrigation within the structure, necessary tools, pest and disease management, harvesting and post harvest handling, growth planning, pros vs. cons of hoop-houses, and the economics and market factors involved! Mr. Wiediger offered an excellent balance of technical knowledge and instruction as well as surprising and specific stories to illustrate lessons he has learned as a farmer for over 30 years.
Besides all of the information we absorbed psychophysically and can retain as knowledge, we did not go home empty handed. We acquired two copies of a CD produced by SSAWG called "Organic Vegetable Production & Marketing in the South", which is supposed to provide fabulous information and advise to farmers specific to our location. A group of long-time organic food producers collaborated to make this information available, and it features Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm. We were also given a CD containing a copy of the Wiediger's powerpoint presentation and several worksheets and spreadsheets. But that is not all! The Wiedigers gave us each a copy of their book "Walking to Spring", a guide to using high tunnels to grow produce 52 weeks out of the year.

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