[caption id="attachment_81452" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/05\/DSC_0571.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="374" class="size-full wp-image-81452" \/> Pocahontas County Extension Agent Luci Mosesso welcomed attendees to a high tunnel workshop held in the high tunnel at the Marlinton Middle School. Mosesso explained that many local farmers are interested in high tunnel gardening and that there is a cost-sharing program available through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to defray the cost of building one. L.D. Bennett photos[\/caption]\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_81453" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/05\/DSC_0584.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="548" class="size-full wp-image-81453" \/> Local gardener Father Arthur Bufogle shared gardening experience and tips- along with a few humorous gardening stories \u2013 at the high tunnel workshop.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nA high tunnel workshop was recently held in the high tunnel at Marlinton Middle School.\r\n\r\nPocahontas County Extension Agent Luci Mosesso; Casey Withers, of Ruby Grow, the High Rock\u2019s agricultural venture; Catholic pastor and well-known local gardener Father Arthur Bufogle; and Steve White from Grow Appalachia Linwood spoke to local residents about high tunnel gardening. \u00a0\r\n\r\nMosesso gave an overview of the process, from planting seeds to harvesting. \r\n\r\nWithers talked about tools for high tunnel gardening and demonstrated a wheeled seed planter.\r\n\r\nBufogle shared his high tunnel experience and showed how to create perfectly spaced soil cells for starting seeds.\r\n\r\nWhite discussed lessons learned about growing vegetables in a high tunnel. \r\n\r\nThe middle school high tunnel is situated on Rt. 219 in front of the school and beside the state police headquarters.\r\n\r\nIt was donated to the county by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and was erected by volunteers during the 2014-2015 school year. \r\n\r\nMarlinton Middle School students have been enjoying using it as an outdoor classroom and teachers report that it\u2019s been an appropriate setting for teaching many subjects.\r\n\r\nHumans have long known about the benefits of indoor agriculture. After all, the ancient Romans were using an early form of the greenhouse thousands of years ago.\r\n\r\nThe first greenhouse to appear in America was built in 1737 for Boston merchant Andrew Faneuil, and many of our founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had greenhouses, too.\r\n\r\nBut, in the last several years, a new form of semi-indoor agriculture, the high tunnel, has captured the interest of farmers.\r\n\r\nHigh tunnels \u2013 some people call them hoop houses \u2013 differ from traditional\u00a0greenhouses\u00a0in that they are not permanent structures as most greenhouses are, and crops are grown in the ground in a high tunnel rather than above ground level as they usually are in greenhouses.\r\n\r\nAlso, high tunnels are not enclosed with glass, but with layers of heavy polyethylene sheeting.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe tunnels are usually about 14-by-30 feet wide by 30-by-96 feet long.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThey are tall enough to comfortably walk in and to grow trellised crops.\r\n\r\nGreenhouses use electricity and are typically heated, while high tunnels use the sun\u2019s warmth for heat and wind for ventilation.\u00a0 \r\n\r\nBy opening the doors on either end and lifting the material on the sides, fresh air can be allowed into the tunnel to ventilate the structure and lower the inside temperature on hot summer days.\r\n\r\nA high tunnel allows farmers to plant early and harvest later, dramatically extending their growing season.\r\n\r\nAnd, if the high tunnel is heated, crops can be grown year around. \r\n\r\nWinter growers should also consider installing small portable heaters for exceptionally cold days.\r\n\r\nThe additional expenses associated with high tunnel agriculture, especially during the initial set up, must be taken into account. But an extended season or year-round growing means marketing produce when demand is higher \u2013 increasing potential income per crop.\r\n\r\nA high tunnel may also turn out higher-quality produce, as there is less chance of damage to crops by birds and deer. \r\n\r\nBugs and disease may also have a tougher time of damaging crops in a high tunnel, although there are some pests which thrive in the high tunnel environment. \r\n\r\nFor example, crops which suffer from mites, thrips, aphids and powdery mildew have to be closely monitored.\r\n\r\nRow covers inside the high tunnel can reduce the need for pesticides and insect screens installed along the outside walls can deter intrusion by larger insects and small, four-legged plant predators.\r\n\r\nHigh tunnels do a good job of protecting against extreme weather like damaging wind, hail, hard rains, snow and drought, but the structures can also be at risk themselves from severe storms.\r\n\r\nHigh tunnels provide shade \u2013 which protects sensitive crops from heat and sunburn but, even so, many farmers find that fans come in handy during very hot weather.\r\n\r\nWith all of these considerations in mind, many Pocahontas County farmers believe the investment of money, time and effort is worth it. \r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s a lot to be learned about high tunnel agriculture, but many farmers are finding that it can work for them,\u201d Mosesso, said.\r\n\r\nSteve White, director of Grow Appalachia Linwood, enjoys answering questions and working with local gardeners as well as large farming operations interested in high tunnel gardening. \r\n\r\n\u201cOur program helps to fund gardeners from Durbin and Slaty Fork to Green Bank and Marlinton, and they report the quantity of produce grown in exchange for the help,\u201d White said.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re finding that high tunnels can be a lucrative investment for many farmers,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\n\u201cLots of farmers are interested in high tunnel gardening, but are intimidated by the initial cost,\u201d Mosesso said.\r\n\r\nBut there\u2019s help available to Pocahontas County farmers to mitigate the cost of building a high tunnel.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s a high tunnel cost share program available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture,\u201d she explained.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnyone interested in the details of that program or anyone who has questions about gardening in high tunnels, please call us at the Pocahontas County Extension office.\u201d \u00a0\r\n\r\nThat number is 304-799-4852.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe Pocahontas County Extension Service will offer more educational sessions in the near future.\r\n\r\nLook for sessions at the Marlinton Community Garden on such topics as trellising, pest control, weed control and canning and preserving foods.