You know spring for Dakota farms is just around the corner – or it’s already arrived – when the temperature reaches 70 degrees F like is has recently.
But, I bet you’re not the first farm to be in the field.
Dale and Rena Hebda, Mission Hill, S.D., were already planting when I visited last week. The Hebdas – who grow vegetables and fruit for sale at theri farm and at farmers markets, retail outlets and schools – were planting lettuce and other cole crops in their hoop house. Some of their farm's winter plantings, such as onion and spinach, were already up. They’ll be seeding tomatoes and other vegetables in the green house this week.
The farm hoop house was an interesting structure. It was about 30' wide by 60' long and looked like little more than plastic stretched over metal tube frame. But it had vents and side curtains that opened automatically according to the temperature and humidity inside. The whole structure was on tracks. The Hebdas move the house down the tracks and over different crops as the season progress. Their hoop house field more than100 feet long.
The hoop house wasn’t cheap. It cost nearly $14,000, Dale says. But there’s a big incentive to make the investment and to figure out how to grow crops in it.
Cucumbers in their hoop house yielded five times as much as cucumbers in an open field last year, which surprised Dale.
And then there’s the ability to push up and extend the season.
“In this business, you want to the first to the market with the best quality,” he says, “because you can set the price and get the early business. Later, when everyone else starts bringing in their product, customers will keep coming back to you.”
Imagine if that were the case with corn and soybeans, too. We’d really have a race to be the first to plant.