Marissa Kruthaup, 22, plants vegetables in their High Tunnel on The Kruthaup Family Farm in Morrow. Her father, Ken, is at left. The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour
John Faherty reports:
Any person who grows one, or anyone who wants to eat one, knows that the wait for a good, juicy, locally grown tomato can feel interminable around here.
The soil is willing, but the weather will not cooperate. The winter lingers, the spring takes awhile to begin and tomato plants typically cannot go into the ground until May. The tomatoes themselves are not ready to be pulled from the vine until sometime around the Fourth of July.
But no solution has been forthcoming. After all, there’s nothing to be done about the weather.
Unless, that is, you are a farmer willing to listen to your then 21-year-old daughter who is studying agriculture at the University of Kentucky and has this crazy idea that her dad might want to think about.
That is exactly what happened in Warren County, where a family farm was inspired to be more sustainable and more profitable. This old farm is now using new principles to make more tomatoes. The idea increases sustainability by extending the growing season and allowing people to eat locally more often.
In short, it means fresh tomatoes sooner, and planting in stages, allowing for a longer stretch of perfectly ripe produce. It works on the farm and it can work in the backyard.
A high tunnel, sometimes called a hoop house, is essentially a greenhouse set over a bed in a field. That last distinction is important. A high tunnel is different from a greenhouse because the high tunnel means the plants go directly into the ground.
These are simple structures covered in plastic. The plants are heated by the sun and protected from the wind. Tomato plants like them so much they yield ripe fruit in early June, four to five weeks earlier than normal.
Marissa Kruthaup is the agriculture major, now a senior graduating a few weeks, who brought the idea from the classroom to her father’s Morrow farm two years ago.
It was, she said, a little nerve-racking.
Eight acres on the family’s 75-acre farm are used to grow produce. Farmers, like Marissa’s dad, are often reluctant to change the way they do things – and for good reason. Farming practices are tried over time and crops only come once a year.
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