The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Camden County Soil and Water Conservations District is sponsoring a self-guided tour to two locations from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 2 for people interested in constructing and operating high tunnels.


The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Camden County Soil and Water Conservations District is sponsoring a self-guided tour to two locations from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 2 for people interested in constructing and operating high tunnels.

A high tunnel is an unheated, plastic-covered structure that provides environmental protection to crops. According to the NRCS website, high tunnels help improve quality life and soil quality, reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation, improve air quality through reducing transportation inputs and reducing energy consumption through providing consumers with fresh produce from a local source. 

“I wrote a grant for a high tunnel to the government and the government accepted,”  said Mark Zickefoose, owner of Bear Hollow Farms. “I’m on a three-year trial program to see how it works. I decided to do this to extend my growing season.”

Bear Hollow Farms is an establishment in Camdenton that specializes in providing pasture-raised and chemical-free produce at their business and the local farmers' markets. Zickefoose will provide a tour at 9:30 a.m. to showcase his "Farm Tek" high tunnel he installed in July 2010.

Dan Silberberg, NRCS district conservationist, said Zimmerman and Farm Tek are two different types of high tunnel models sold from companies.

“‘Zimmerman' high tunnels are sold locally by Morgan County Seed Company and 'Farm Tek' is sold by FarmTek company. Both have online catalogs. There are several other manufacturers, but these two are the ones we’ll be looking at on tour,” Silberberg said.

Silberberg said high tunnels help lengthen the growing season for various crops and helps with production. People interested in constructing a high tunnel are able to grow tomatoes in late March when tomatoes usually begin growing in June.

In fiscal year 2010, the NRCS received nearly 3,000 applications for high tunnels. In 2012, Silberberg said the NRCS provided more than $1 million for the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative funding.  
“We (NRCS) allocated a million dollars for high tunnels,” he said. “We are funding 177 high tunnels in Missouri.”

The Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to producers.

“The winter was really mild, but we were picking things in Nov. The broccoli this year was put in in February and picked last month. High tunnels help get twice as much produce,” Zickefoose said.

Not only does Zickefoose use his high tunnel to produce crops in the spring and summer, he said that he puts his chickens in the high tunnel in the winter and rotates them out. 

Jeff and Tanya Apperson, owners of the J & T Country Store, will provide a tour at 11 a.m. to showcase their Zimmerman high tunnel they installed in Sept. 2011.

J & T Country Store is located in Roach, Mo., providing a variety of natural produce. Jeff Apperson manages a beef cattle operation, too.

Silberberg said that high tunnels come in various shapes and sizes to fit the needs of producers.
“There are different designs,” Silberberg said. “Some can roll on wheels, but they all look very similar. You want them strong enough to withstand snowfall. Pre-manufactured kits can be found online. If you buy the maximum size, it’s only about $6,000 to $7,000.”

Agricultural producers interested in constructing a high tunnel can participate in the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. For information on eligibility, visit the NRCS website http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/?&cid=stelprdb1046250.