Coming from New Jersey, this winter has been much colder than what I'm used to but according to past records and to literally everyone up here, it's been a really mild winter for New England. We are able to take advantage of these relatively warm temperatures by using the high tunnels, or hoop houses, to really lengthen the growing season. Starting seeds in the high tunnel could help them germinate weeks before the ground is even thawed and adds protection from whatever the end of winter has coming our way. High tunnels have plastic sides that can roll up and down to help with temperature, ventilation, humidity, and wind. To demonstrate the high tunnel's power at retaining heat, I was replacing straw for the strawberries a few weeks ago and was doing it wearing a t-shirt. Today, Jackie from the Inn at Valley Farms and I were able to plant our cold hardy seeds in hopes to get an earlier harvest!
The high tunnels are not only used for gardening, though, especially here at the farm. We have laying hens in one high tunnel for the winter months so they are able to stay warm and comfortable until the seasons change and the grass grows in again. In another tunnel, the pigs are able to make their wallows and pile on top of each other to happily sleep in an area without snow and ice while still allowing them access to the outdoors. These hoop houses, made only of a metal frame and a plastic covering, provide warmth, protection, and the opportunity to farm almost year round.