Farmers’ Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities Associated with Using High Tunnels for Specialty Crops

Academic Article


  • High tunnels are an increasingly popular part of the infrastructure among small and diversified farms that market their products directly to consumers. In addition to extending the growing season, research has strongly indicated that high tunnels can increase yield, enhance shelf life, and improve the quality of crops grown. The objective of this study was to gain a better understanding, from the perspective of farmers, of the challenges and opportunities associated with adopting high tunnels for specialty crops in Indiana. We collected information through a case study that included questionnaires and in-depth interviews with 20 farmers. We found that the additional labor and time requirements of high tunnel production, the increased complexity of high tunnel production, soil fertility, and disease management, and limited winter markets posed the greatest challenges. The ability to differentiate their products based on higher quality and longer shelf life, the ability to obtain a premium price, the ability to have a source of income during the off-season, and the ability to produce complementary crops were the most important opportunities for using high tunnels. This research implied ways to expand opportunities and reduce barriers to maximizing the potential of high tunnels. Understanding the human dimensions of managing high tunnels is important for providing extension educators and Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff with better knowledge of the common difficulties and benefits of this technology so they are better able to advise farmers considering investing in a high tunnel. A focus on the human dimensions is also helpful for identifying research priorities to evaluate new approaches to decreasing problems and increasing benefits. Consequently, this study provided an in-depth understanding of farm-level challenges associated with high tunnel adoption to improve future research in diverse fields.
  • Authors

  • Bruce, Analena
  • Maynard, Elizabeth T
  • Farmer, James R
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 2019
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

  • HortTechnology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 290
  • End Page

  • 299
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 3