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SDSU Extension to host High Tunnel Field Day featuring Webster-area farmers

BROOKINGS, S.D. – SDSU Extension is hosting a High Tunnel Field Day, which includes a tour of a northeastern South Dakota farm. 

SDSU Extension horticulture specialists Kristine Lang and Rhoda Burrows will host the event, which is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. CST June 5 at Waldner Farms, 522 E. First Ave., Webster, South Dakota. Waldner Farms, managed by Darin and his wife, Melissa, and Darin’s mother, Sue, grows seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The event is for current and beginning farmers, technical service providers, gardeners, and anyone who would like to learn more about high tunnels. Throughout the evening, Lang, Burrows and the Waldner family will share high tunnel production challenges, opportunities and solutions. 

To start the High Tunnel Field Day, Darin Waldner will give a presentation about his family’s high tunnel, followed by a guided tour. Lang and Burrows said the tour is one of the most valuable parts of the event.

“You can read about high tunnels, you can watch videos about high tunnels, but the best way to learn about how you might want to build your high tunnel is by being in a high tunnel,” Lang said. 

After the Waldners’ presentation, Burrows will speak about managing fertility and food safety in high tunnels, and Lang will provide a “show and tell” on grafted tomatoes. The evening will end with a free picnic supper. There will also be time throughout the evening for networking with attendees and presenters. 

Lang said the day provides a valuable opportunity for producers and growers to meet other people in the region who are interested in using high tunnels.

“This really is a field day for everyone,” she said. “I think people will learn a lot from this event.”

A high tunnel, also known as a “hoop house,” is a protective structure used to extend the growing season and improve the quality of produce. Unlike a greenhouse, plants in a high tunnel are still grown directly in the soil. An increasingly popular option for vegetable and flower growers, high tunnels offer a less expensive alternative to greenhouses.

“Generally, because there’s less stress, things will grow much more quickly and vigorously in a high tunnel,” said Burrows, who has been providing public education on high tunnels for more than 15 years. “Sometimes you get higher yields, but more often it’s a case of a larger percentage of the yield is marketable.”

The event will be held rain or shine. Signs will direct visitors to parking upon arrival at the event. Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chair. Please do not bring pets.

High tunnel material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agreement number 2022-38640-37486 through the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program under project number ENC22-216. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider.

For more information, contact Kristine Lang, SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist; or Waldner Farms via their website or on their Facebook page.