Students help build new 'high tunnel' to protect campus-grown crops from temperature extremes
By Katie Neitz
Thanks to a generous donation, Lafayette’s LaFarm is now home to a high tunnel, a 30’ x 100’ growing environment that enables the farm to extend its season and protect its crops.
“This will enable us to grow food later into the fall and winter and earlier in the spring,” says Lisa Miskelly, assistant director of food and farm at the College. “Our goal is to try and match the growing season with the on-campus student season, so that the greatest food production can occur when the most students are on campus.”
While limited students are on campus currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be an important factor in the future.
Another benefit is that the high tunnel will protect crops from excessive rain, which can increase disease pressure on crops and decrease production. “That’s increasingly important with climate change and the abundance of rain we have seen in past years,” Miskelly says. “A few seasons ago, the excessive rain increased foliar diseases on our tomatoes, leading to an early demise for the plants.”
Construction of the high tunnel started in early 2020 and was put on pause when the COVID pandemic shut down campus. Student employees returned to LaFarm in late August and followed health and safety protocols to continue the work. “Students have been very connected to the project; it felt important for them to continue to be part of the construction,” Miskelly says.
Food grown at LaFarm provides nourishment to many: Produce is served in campus dining halls, sold via weekly on-line sales, contributes to campus’s Pard Pantry during breaks, and is distributed to Easton residents through the local Vegetables in the Community program from July-September.