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Farming under Glass and Plastic? Possible and Profitable

EVERETT, Wash. – The downturn in housing starts has resulted in a marked decrease in ornamental nursery production, while vegetable plant sales and the demand for local fresh fruit and vegetables remains steady. With centralized food production jeopardized by contamination and transportation issues, year-round regionally based greenhouse production is again becoming cost-effective and profitable.

Structures as economical and simple as a high tunnel or hoop house can expand production on both ends of the growing season, and typical nursery production greenhouses can be turned to year-round vegetable production.

Washington State University Snohomish County Extension is presenting a six-week organic greenhouse vegetable production series. Classes will be held on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Feb. 25 through April 8. Lunch will be on your own and there will be no class on March 25.

The classes will be held at the McCollum Park Adopt-A-Stream Auditorium, 600 – 128th Street S.E. in Everett.

Blair McHenry of Dominion Organics, a certified organic greenhouse vegetable operation based in Ferndale, Wash., will lead a panel of instructors experienced in organic greenhouse production from soil to market. Topics to be covered include:

  • Feb. 25: The Greenhouse Environment: Using What You Have or Building New – Structures, year-round vs. extended season, dealing with snow and wind, ventilation, heating, additional lighting, hydroponics, bag and pot culture, in-ground production, and soil testing and sampling techniques.
  • March 4: Marketing and Food Safety: Selling What You Sow – Direct marketing including farmers markets, farm stands, and restaurants, and a panel discussion with local wholesale produce buyers. Food safety, developing a plan, HAACP, and regulatory and liability issues.
  • March 11: Crops and Propagation: Matching Crop to Greenhouse and Grower – Cold and warm season crops including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cucumbers, greens, and others. Matching crops to your situation, rest periods, succession plantings, A to Z organic certification (is the label worth the cost?), propagation techniques, direct seeding versus transplants, growing your own transplants, and grafted tomatoes.
  • March 18: Soil Testing: Making Sense of the Numbers – How to read a soil test and determine what it means for your operation, why different methods yield different results, compensating for lacking nutrients, amendments for specific deficiencies, nutrient availability, mid-season testing, and foliar applications.
  • April 1: Soil Building: Build It and They Will Grow – Evaluating compost, fixing bad compost, National Organic Program compost-making standards, making your own, raw materials, other nutrient needs, trace elements, and the soil food web.
  • April 8: Putting It All Together – Fertility inputs including manures and other organic nutrient resources, adding and managing microorganisms feed the soil or feed the plant, application techniques, and basics of greenhouse insect pest management.

Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Participants may attend one or more individual sessions. The cost is $40 each to attend up to two sessions, and $35 each for three or more sessions. Attend the series of six classes for $180 per farm or operation (limit of two people) and receive one free soil test and analysis.

To register contact Karie Christensen at (425) 338-2400 or by email at klchristen@wsu.edu , or download the registration form at http://snohomish.wsu.edu/ag/workshops/organicgreenhouse09.pdf and mail with your check.

For more information on the series, contact Drew Corbin at corbina@wsu.edu, (425) 357-6012.

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Media Contacts

Drew Corbin, WSU Extension Agriculture Educator, 425-357-6012