by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
“I’m still kind of learning, too,” said Ray Zimmerman, during an interview at his High Tunnel Farm near Fort Plain, NY.
Zimmerman, who moved to New York from Pennsylvania nearly 4 years ago, says this is the third year he has been in production with high tunnels.
He says he works closely with CCE ENYCHP Horticulture Specialist Crystal Stewart.
At this time Zimmerman says he produces two varieties of full size tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and has now started growing Roma.
Zimmerman says he has had some experience with tomato disease, but fortunately was able to curtail it. He has learned that tomato disease is not only spread through mold spores and air currents, but can be spread through contaminated footwear, clothing and dirty hands.
“If I have a disease out in the field and I go from out there and come in here, I could bring it in here,” he acknowledges.
Zimmerman adopts practices taught at workshops and does some soil testing through CCE. He adds nutrients through his irrigation drip. He also sprays with a copper based fungicide.
In addition to growing tomatoes and potted flowers in high tunnels, Zimmerman grows tomatoes, zucchini, beans, potatoes, strawberries and asparagus on about 5 acres.
He markets his produce at an Amish produce auction.
“I sell some privately, but, not much,” he reports.
Was it just common sense that led Zimmerman to high tunnels?
He says he “just knew” that to get early tomatoes he needed to grow them inside, in a protected environment. So, he established his high tunnels.
“In here you almost always pick ‘number one’ tomatoes. If you pick tomatoes out in the field, you might have 20 or 30 or 40 percent ‘number twos’ — and junk. In here almost every tomato you pick is a number one.”