Stretch out your season with hoophouses

A series of tip sheets on labor efficiency for
vegetable and berry growers.


Astrid Newenhouse
Bob Meyer
Marcia Miquelon
and Larry Chapman

University of Wisconsin, Madison
Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project

Why consider a hoophouse for berries?

If you want to extend your harvest season and improve your work environment, consider using an unheated, plastic-covered hoophouse for raspberries and strawberries. In addition to increasing your profits by giving you a longer market window, hoophouse berry production can benefit your health and increase your work efficiency. Farmers and researchers in several states are growing hoophouse berries. In Holland, Great Britain, Japan, China and other countries hoophouse berry production (also called high tunnel production) is popular. Some farms in Japan and Great Britain are also growing PYO berries in hoophouses.

Raspberries growing in pots inside Dan Deneen’s hoophouse in Mazomanie, WI.
Raspberries growing in pots inside Dan Deneen’s hoophouse in Mazomanie, WI.

Mike Finley of Janesville, WI grows early-season strawberries in these unheated hoophouses.

Mike Finley of Janesville, WI grows early-season strawberries in these unheated hoophouses.

Benefits:

Season extension. Hoophouse grown berries will ripen earlier than field grown berries, allowing you to get a jump on the market and extend the amount of time you have to make money off your crop. By spreading out your workload over a longer harvest season, you also reduce your stress and bodily fatigue.

Controlled environment. In a hoophouse, you don't have to worry about rain splashing fungal spores up from the soil onto your berries and hastening rot diseases. Using drip irrigation, you can add water and nutrients with precision. You may not need to use as many pesticides, which can reduce your own exposure to these chemicals.

Easier on your body. You can use raised beds, bags, or bench systems to create a more convenient height for your plants. This reduces the amount of stooping you and your workers do to harvest berries and to tend plants. In a hoophouse, rain won't keep pickers away, and you are also protected from wind, cold, and UV rays.

Is hoophouse berry production cost effective?

The startup costs of hoophouse production can be high. However, you may get a higher price for your berries if they are early season, off-season, or organic. You will need to analyze your own situation and compare expected yields and market price with the cost of production. It's possible to bend your own pipe framework and make a simple unheated structure cheaply.


How do I get started?

Some references for hoophouses or hoophouse berry production are listed below. Articles in academic journals should be available through your state university library system, and you could order them locally through interlibrary loan.

These references are provided as a convenience for our readers. They are not an endorsement by the University of Wisconsin.

Winter raspberry production in greenhouses, Marvin Pritts et al, HortTechnology 1999, 9(1) 12-15. Also at www.hort.cornell.edu, or call (607) 255-4568.

Greenhouse strawberry production during
winter months. Fumiomi Takeda, USDA-ARS,
Kearneysville, WV (304) 725-3451. Proc. Mid-
Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention,
Hershey, PA, 1999.

“These New Hampshire strawberries are no
bleacher bums" The Fruit Growers News,
Sparta, MI, July 2000, pg 32-33, about William
Lord's work at the Univ. of NH. (616) 887-9008
www.fruitgrowersnews.com

“Greenhouse strawberry production reaches
new heights” Tim Carpenter, Greenhouse
Management and Production, Sept. 1996 16(9)
pp. 38-43.

“Get on the hoophouse bandwagon!” Growing
for Market, Dec. 1999 8(12). Lawrence, KS.
(785) 748-8949.

How-to hoop house construction tips.1999.
Noble Foundation pub. NF-HO-99-02,
www.noble.org, (580) 223-5810, free.

Greenhouses for homeowners and gardeners,
June 2000. Natural Resources Ag Eng. Service
bulletin #3137. 200 pgs, $25.(607)255-7654.

Proceedings of the 3rd Intl. Strawberry
Symposium Vol I, II, Acta Horticulture 1996
No. 439. Read relevant papers at your state
university's agriculture library.

Greenhouse strawberry culture in peat bags.
Lieten and Baets, Advances in Strawberry
Production, 1991, Vol. 10, 56-57.

Production systems. Handley, D., 1998. In:
Pritts and Handley (eds), Strawberry production
guide. Pg 18-27. NE Reg. Agr. Eng. Serv., Ithaca, NY. (607) 255-7654.

Rowcover and high tunnel growing systems
in the United States, Otho Wells,
HortTechnology 1996, 6(3) 172-176.

Strawberries under protection. Dennis
Wilson. 1997. Grower Guide No. 6. Grower
Books, Kent, Great Britain. 84 pgs, $30. ISBN
1 899372 11 3.

Grower Magazine. Misc. articles. Published
weekly by Nexus Media, Leicestershire,
England. Tel. 01858-438897. Check to see if
your state agriculture library carries this
publication.

ATTRA information packets, Appropriate
Technology Transfer for Rural Areas,
Fayetteville, AK, (800) 346-9140.; free

Greenhouse supply companies such as
Hummert (800-325-3055), CropKing (800-321-
5656) Stuppy (800-733-5025), and International
Greenhouse Co (888-281-9337).

 

This material was developed by the Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project, whose goal is to find and share work efficiency tips that maintain farmers' health and safety and also increase profits.

For more information, call (608) 252-1054 or visit our website at http://bse.wisc.
edu/hfhp/


Material is not copyrighted. Feel free to reproduce; please mention source: University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project, Nov. 2001. Second Edition.

Authors: Astrid Newenhouse, Bob Meyer, Marcia Miquelon, and Larry Chapman, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, 460 Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706.

Photographs: Mike Finley and Marcia Miquelon

Research for this publication was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Work Efficiency Tip Sheet: Stretch out your season with hoophouses