High Tunnels in the City

istock-000006012890medium.jpgHigh Tunnels in the City High tunnels offer an inexpensive way to extend the growing season for produce. They can also help eradicate a “food desert” in the southeast corner of the state if collaboration between Penn State Extension and community partners in Philadelphia are successful.

High tunnels consist of a metal pipe frame covered by a single layer of plastic sheeting. With plastic sides that can be rolled up and down manually to control the temperature they are ideal for growing produce in urban areas, according to Bill Lamont, professor of vegetable crops in the college.

“High tunnels could increase access to vegetables and fruits, particularly for populations in so-called ‘food deserts’ that lack retail food outlets,” said Lamont, “and could help combat the alarming rise in obesity, especially in children.”

Faculty in the Department of Horticulture and extension educators in Philadelphia have sought funding to support the acquisition and construction of 10 high tunnels in the city. These high tunnels now make up the High Tunnel Alliance, a network fostered by Penn State Extension.

With funding supplied by two U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Block Grants, the partnership has developed high-tunnel operations that produce year-round greens and other cool-season vegetables that can be sold in the surrounding urban area.

“I think that the use of high tunnels in urban agriculture will continue to grow and expand in Philadelphia,” Lamont said. “There’s certainly a lot of opportunities and excitement surrounding this initiative.”