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Growers gather in Batavia to learn about tunnel farming

More than 50 vegetable farmers from throughout WNY were at the Cornell Extension in Batavia today for "Tunnel School."

Tunnels, also called hoop houses, are like greenhouses. They're large enclosed structures allow plants to be grown in-ground but protected from the elements.

"What we're trying to do is help vegetable farmers grow over a longer season," said Judson Reid, a senior extension associate. "We really trying to help farmers increase their profitability with some of the technology we're talking about here today."

Tunnels allow farmers to plant vegetables earlier in the spring and harvest later in the fall, and because the plants are irrigated and aren't hit with rain water, the vegetables often come out looking better, which makes them easier to sell.

Not just growing vegetables but topics such as pricing and marketing where discussed in some depth by the farmers.

"One of my co-presenters said earlier today that farming is about marketing, business and growing, in that order," Reid said. "It's really fun to talk about plants, growing, soils, but really, we can never neglect markets.We have to focus on our marketing ability to improve our profitability."

Paul Fenton, owner of Fenton Farms in Batavia, was among the local farmers at the workshop and he said he was getting a lot of good information from the presenters.

"We're here because we want to extend our growing season and improve quality," Fenton said.

He said he's planning on growing cherry and  grape tomatoes. 

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