Protected vegetable production increases
Production of vegetables in greenhouses and high tunnels is on the rise. In the United States, the acreage of vegetables and herbs grown under protection increased 82% between 2007 and 2017. The number of farms growing vegetables and herbs under protection increased 166% (USDA).
Advantages of greenhouses and high tunnels
Although greenhouse production costs tend to be higher than field production costs, greenhouses offer several advantages. Greenhouses allow an extended growing season and higher yields per acre. They offer more control over quality and food safety. Greenhouses can reduce risks from bad weather and pests.
High tunnels (or hoop houses) are a lower cost option for protected vegetable production. They offer some of the advantages of greenhouses, but provide less control over the growing environment.
Financial assistance for high tunnels
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) considers the use of high tunnels a farm conservation practice. They offer financial assistance for growers to install high tunnels. The EQIP High Tunnel System Initiative is available nationally. The Conservation Innovation Grant Program is now accepting grant proposals for innovative high tunnel systems in Florida.
Upcoming webinars and online training
UF/IFAS Extension offers education and training programs on protected vegetable production. A virtual field day series on growing vegetables in greenhouses and high tunnels starts on May 27, 2021. The intended audience is beginning vegetable growers interested in protected growing systems. The weekly webinars will be held on Thursdays, 1:00-2:00 PM, between May 27th and June 24th. The series provides an introduction to growing four different crops in protected systems: lettuce (May 27), cucumber (June 3), tomato (June 10), and pepper (June 17). A fifth session (June 24) will focus on the economics of these production systems. Registration is free, but a Zoom account is required for registration. Sign up free for a Zoom account on the registration page.
A more in-depth online course on hydroponic vegetable production will be offered October 25th to November 22nd this year. This intermediate-level course is intended for growers with some prior experience or training. You can register for the course through the UF/IFAS Canvas registration page. View the Greenhouse Training Online page to see other related courses.