Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Broadturn Farm High Tunnels Project

I first met John Bliss and Stacy Brenner when I was researching the viability of the Paperpot Transplanter. While this product did not make it into our line (for logistical reasons), they are big proponents of it and have integrated its use throughout their overall planting strategy.

Their farm is heavily into agritourism and is just a little bit of everything. Quoted from their website:
 "Broadturn Farm is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm located 10 miles from Portland, Maine that raises organic vegetables, cut flowers,  strawberries, a small amount of poultry, and turkey, as well as natural lamb and pork. We host weddings and events. The property is in agricultural conservation with the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust. Formerly called the Keith Meserve Farm, the land is one of the largest farm properties in the Greater Portland area. It has 100 acres of open land and about 330 wooded acres."

Along with the CSA and weddings, they also run a farm stand called Flora Bliss, do wedding flowers and cut flower design for events, and have a farm camp in summer. Am I missing anything? Probably. They've got a lot going on.

The construction of caterpillar tunnels at Broadturn Farm was initiated due to a partnership involving offsite trialing of flower varieties for Johnny's Selected Seeds. I was asked to support this partnership by managing the construction of a caterpillar tunnel on their farm. I saw this as a unique opportunity to develop instructional videos for our Quick Hoops Bender line, so we decided to build a fixed tunnel and a moveable tunnel. The end goal would be making these videos available for free download on our website. We still have some minor filming and a bunch of editing to do, but we hope to get these videos out to the public soon.

This was every bit a trial as any of our projects have been, as both these tunnels were much longer than those we had previously built. Extra length brought with it some unique challenges, including the need for more secure T-posts at the ends of the tunnels and a need for more hands to hold down the plastic when skinning the tunnel. I also took this opportunity to try out some design modifications, which included building the fixed tunnel on taller ground posts. This really changed the structure substantially in size, feel, and thermal performance, and instantly made it accessible with a small tractor. This was (as always) a great learning experience, and we were able to accomplish this with two days of pre-fabrication in the Johnny's trial farm shop, followed by three separate days of on-site construction.

Special thanks to the Broadturn Farm Crew, including owners Stacy Brenner, John Bliss, Emma, and Flora, and their great crew, Andrea, Maggie, Clint and Nick. Thanks to Johnny's employees Jeff Young, Matt Giroux, Russel Prime, and Hillary Alger for their hard work in the construction of the tunnels. Thanks also to Angela DiMillo for her work behind the lens, and to Patti Lennon and Christina Hillier for their support on this project as well.

Adam Lemieux
Tools and Supplies Manager

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