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Production Models & Methods

Hoop House Production

As described under Infrastructure, Laura and Adam added a hoop house to their production system in 2009. Early in the season, they used it to grow radishes, bok choi, head lettuce, and other greens. They had product for sale at the farmers market by May 5, one month earlier than the same crops planted in the field (Figure 30). lettuce in hoophouse
Figure 30: Lettuce growing in the hoop house on May 5.

They appreciated the early income and jump-start it gave them on their season – as did their customers, including the food writer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Figure 31)!

Figure 31: This newspaper piece sang the praises of Loon Organics' early-season produce and was accompanied by a large photo of bright red radishes, essentially providing Adam and Laura with a free 1/8-page advertisement in a major metropolitan paper.

Star Tribune article

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After the early greens, they planted cherry and slicing tomatoes in the hoop house. They also did a companion planting of basil. Adam and Laura found that the hoop house helped prevent cracking in the vulnerable cherry tomatoes because they were able to control moisture levels. The plants were also healthier overall because rainfall was not causing soil to splash up onto the plants and transmit disease vectors as easily as in the field.

trellised tomatoes
Figure 32: These trellised tomatoes grew well in the hoop house but required a lot of labor due to the trellising height, a factor Laura and Adam plan to adjust in subsequent seasons.
Overall Laura and Adam were pleased with their pilot hoop house and plan to add one or more over the next five years. They found 15’ to be too high in the current hoop house because it increased the effort required to trellis and prune the tomatoes (Figure 32). In the future, they anticipate putting up gothic-style hoop houses that better manage snow load during the winter. Aside from experimenting with optimum hoop house size and refining management of day-to-day hoop house operation, they are still figuring out the best crop rotation for hoop house production in their situation.

They would like to grow cucumbers and other crops in the additional hoop houses, but only a limited number of crop types do well in this setting.

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