By Cecilia Diaz, Agriculture Associate, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic County
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic County inaugurated a new teaching and demonstration site consisting of a high tunnel located at Preakness Valley Golf Course. The installation of this structure will allow Rutgers Master Gardeners, youth, and others to learn about horticultural and agricultural techniques. A high tunnel is a fairly simple, inexpensive greenhouse-like structure consisting of an enclosed metal pipe framing covered with greenhouse-grade plastic that provides the opportunity to extend the growing season by growing earlier into the spring and later into the fall, while protecting crops from excessive rain, wind, sun, cold, and in many cases from wildlife damage.
This urban project will play an important role in the training curriculum of the Rutgers Master Gardener Program of Passaic County by providing an appropriate space for hands-on learning.
This high tunnel was funded through a grant by the National Association of Conservation Districts under the Urban Agriculture Conservation Initiative. Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) partnered with the Hudson, Essex, and Passaic Soil Conservation District to apply for the grant.
The high tunnel was built and installed at the Preakness Valley Golf course by Parks Department employees under the management of director Darryl Sparta and Golf Course superintendents Doug Vogel and Vincent Spano along with the guidance of the RCE agriculture associate, Cecilia Diaz. A number of parks department employees assisted in making this project possible: Daniel Alvarez was in charge of installing the irrigation system, Julio Delacruz and Frank Viglione were the official carpenters in charge of all the wood work, and John Burrafato and his crew were in charge of the masonry. The staff of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic County are greatly appreciative of all their efforts
Prior to the grand opening, a 4-H youth group, along with recent graduates of the Rutgers Master Gardener program, and RCE staff, hosted the first planting event at the high tunnel on June 28. The event gave 4-H youth the opportunity to learn more about planting vegetables, building a trellis to support plants, as well as planting a pollinator garden. It also gave the Master Gardener graduates the opportunity to practice horticultural skills while mentoring the youth on the gardening techniques.