The TunnelBerries research site at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul experienced a very wet summer which contributed to a high degree of infection by anthracnose and other diseases (see the image below). Graduate student Heidi Anderson observes that disease incidence appears to be lower in strawberries grown under low tunnels. Data analysis to be conducted will determine if there is a difference in disease incidence between UV-transmitting and UV-blocking tunnel films.
Before beginning work on this high tunnel berry project, I studied how Michigan vegetable growers utilized tunnels on their farms. One key result was that the most successful farmers used the tunnels to bring income during the “shoulder months” – March through April and October through December, before and after the peak of the outdoor field growing season (see graph below, from Waldman et al.). We learned that for farmers selling at offseason farmers markets, being the only vendor with a big pile of fresh bagged salad greens and other produce was very eye-catching and often brought customers, who then stocked up on roots, eggs, meats, maple and other products. I know that tunnels can extend the season for berries as well, and have heard farmers say sales are excellent- fresh berries fly off the shelves. I wonder if anyone has the experience of fresh delicious berries drawing customers to your stand and helping sales of other products? I’d love to hear your stories!
Dr. Conner is an economist in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont.