Evaluation of a High Tunnel Production System as a Means of Enhancing Market Opportunities for Alabama Growers
Type of DegreeThesis
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High tunnels (HT) can reduce negative environmental strains on crop production and have been shown to extend the growing season for many small fruits and vegetables. Because HT’s require relatively low initial investment compared with standard greenhouse structures, they are particularly well suited for the small to mid-size grower. HT’s provide a practical means of entry into intensive crop production for farmers who direct market their produce. By using HT’s, direct market farmers may create a special marketing niche which set’s them apart by offering locally grown vegetables, cut flowers, small fruits, and herbs earlier in the growing season and into the fall after frost. This project examines (1) the potential use of HT’s for the production of fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), strawberries (Fragaria spp.), and basil (Ocymum spp.) and (2) the seasonal market potential for these crops in Alabama. Viable markets will be determined by conducting surveys at regional locations throughout Alabama, such as farmers markets, grocery stores, shopping centers, etc. Upscale restaurants will also be surveyed to determine the demand for locally grown herbs. These surveys will help determine target markets by asking demographic questions and determining spending habits. Justification for establishing a direct farmer-to-consumer market or a direct farmer to restaurant market for HT products will then be determined.