How do we extend the FM growing season? A tour through Concordia's High Tunnel

Area farmers, community gardeners and local food system activists toured the Concordia College high-tunnel on March 2 to learn more about season extension, the workings of a high-tunnel structure and how to grow more food in & around our Fargo-Moorhead (F-M) community.

According to, a strict definition of a high-tunnel does not exist, and the terms high-tunnel and hoop house are often used interchangeably. A basic definition of a  high-tunnel is a plastic-covered (polyethylene) structure that creates an improved growing environment. High-tunnels aid food production by extending the growing season (i.e. increased temperature in the high-tunnel), by providing protection from the elements (wind, hail, heat, etc.), and by creating a more-stable system to decrease the risk of crop loss and failure.

But how cool is this?! The Concordia high-tunnel is heated through a solar air system - solar panels capture energy from the sun that heats air through tile lines below the soil! Tour leads Tyler Franklin (high-tunnel manager), and garden interns Joleen Baker and Solvei Stenslie informed attendees that this structures has allowed temperatures to reach the mid-70s this winter season and they anticipate putting food into the ground shortly.

It was apparent from the large and diverse number of tour participants that there is great interest in the F-M community on how to maximize the growing season and increase food production within our urban environment. Some tour participants were farmers who already own high-tunnels and wanted to converse about maximizing the use of their structure. The Growing Together Network (one of Fargo-Moorhead’s community gardening program) is exploring various season extension structures, and are interested in seeing the possibilities with a high-tunnel vs. a greenhouse. Members of the Cass Clay Food System Advisory Commission (the F-M metro areas food policy council) are exploring policies and ordinances that promote or prohibit urban agriculture practices. They were interested in discussing the process Concordia went through to build this structure with city officials. But even better was the fact that not all the participants were directly involved in agriculture at the time, which means that interest for sustainable practices, urban agriculture, and fresh, local food is on the minds of many in our community!