New high tunnels help grow more produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

Since its origin as a small communal garden located in space behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in April 2008, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown much of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market.

Coordinated by the Sitka Local Foods Network, with Laura Schmidt serving as lead gardener for the past decade, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm has grown in efficiency and production so there are more fresh veggies available for Sitka residents.

In recent years, that means the addition of high tunnels, also called hoop houses. High tunnels look like greenhouses, but don’t have the heaters, powered ventilation systems or evaporative coolers commonly found in greenhouses. Even without those extras, high tunnels can extend the growing season and even counter the effects of a cold, wet summer such as the one we had in 2020 when it seemed like it rained just about all the time.

It started with a small, used high tunnel a former Sitka Local Foods Network board member donated to the group when she moved out of town. That small high tunnel, which still is in use at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, has been at the communal garden for about 5-6 years now. It was first used as a place to start seedlings and now has chard and kale growing in it.

In the spring of 2020, the Sitka Local Foods Network board approved the purchase of a 16×28 quonset hut-style high tunnel, manufactured by Oregon Valley Greenhouses and sold locally through Spenard Builder’s Supply. This high tunnel was constructed by a volunteer crew coordinated by Laura Schmidt, and was planted in time for the 2020 summer.

That high tunnel saved our 2020 Sitka Farmers Market season, as it helped protect some of the more fragile plants from the extreme cold and rain we had that year. That prompted the Sitka Local Foods Network to buy another 16×28 high tunnel of the same make and model, plus we added an automated venting system and fan to both of the new high tunnels.

Despite the nice weather last week, the 2021 spring has been cold and wet so the produce still needs better weather to kick into gear. But the new high tunnels will greatly help us keep Sitka in produce this summer.

Click this link, if you want to support the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to grow more healthy produce for Sitka residents. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown farm designation, which shows the Sitka Local Foods Network’s commitment to growing produce in a sustainable manner with the minimal use of chemical fertilizers.