An area farm's high tunnel produces tomatoes until December (Arland Johnson in Limestone)

An area farm’s high tunnel produces tomatoes until December (Arland Johnson in Limestone)

May 19, 20, 21: Workshops on producing year-round harvests for profit

A traveling series of workshops for agricultural producers on extending the growing season will be offered across northeast Tennessee during the week of May 18th, sponsored by the Appalachian RC&D Council, AccelNOW, and county offices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Due to our moderate climate, cold-hardy produce (such as lettuce, broccoli, greens) can be successfully grown year-round, even through snow and freezing temperatures, and other crops, like tomatoes, can be grown well into winter.

The events will be held:

  • May 19 at Mountain View Nursery, 1167 Dry Hill Road, Butler, 5:30pm-7:30pm;
  • May 20 at Northeast State Community College, 5:30pm-6:30pm;
  • May 21 at Couch Greenhouse, 604 Stanley Valley Road, Rogersville, 5:30-7:30pm.

Events are free and include light dinner but due to limited space, attendees must reserve in advance: call 423-979-2581 or email

Explaining the reasoning behind these events, Emily Bidgood, Project and Development Coordinator for the Appalachian RC&D Council said, “There are relatively few producers in the greater Tri-Cities selling directly to consumers all year round, and there is plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurial farmers to get in the game.”

John Campbell, Director of AccelNOW, whose mission is to create the most dynamic entrepreneurial environment possible in the region for the purpose of creating more jobs and raising overall income levels, commented, ” With workshops like these, you are introducing many small plot land owners to a chance to bring in extra income with their land. We are very fortunate to have organizations like ARC&D working to improve our regional economy that we can partner with such programs.”
Representatives from the US Dept. of Agriculture will be present at the workshops. The USDA offers a grant for installation of Seasonal High Tunnel Systems administered by each county Soil Conservation office. High Tunnels are 6-foot tall, steel-framed, polyethylene covered structures that are used to protect crops and increase soil temperature through cold weather. Agricultural producers can apply to receive up to 75% of the cost of the average system, but Historically Underserved farmers (Minorities, Veterans, Beginning, Limited Resource) are eligible to receive up to 90%.

“We’re trying to get the word out there about these under utilized cost-share programs and help farms take in more stable income through the year,” said Bidgood.

So that attendees can learn first hand from experienced growers who have High Tunnels alongside other seasonal extension techniques, the workshops will either be held on-site at farms or feature presentations by farmers: Joe Couch in Rogersville, Harvey Burniston and Rick Hansen in Butler, and Matt Dobson at Northeast State. The upfront cost for a High Tunnel (also called Hoop Houses) can be several thousand dollars before government grants, but the workshops will also discuss inexpensive strategies, including low tunnels, row cover (also called float fabric), selecting cold-hardy varieties of plants, and soil management.

Currently, most farmers markets in the greater Tri-Cities close their doors come winter, but information will be provided to attendees about available markets for wintery vegetables. The Appalachian RC&D Council just concluded a series of buyer-producer mixers, an opportunity for local growers to network with area restaurants, groceries, and small distributors who all want to buy more local produce. The results from these mixers will be informative for those who want to turn the “off season” into the “on season.”


Pre-Registration is required. For more information or to RSVP, call 423-979-2581, or email