Zero-miles food takes on a whole new dimension at Dartington a with brand new polytunnel
Our Head Gardener Colum Pawson writes on the creation of a huge new polytunnel at Henri’s Field, and the incredible team effort that made it possible.
The team at Schumacher College have been very busy building a new large polytunnel in Henri’s Field. Previously to this, we had smaller polytunnels spread around the site, this now allows us to make our work more efficient in one big one. It also gives us both a larger indoor teaching space, plus offers a way for us to increase the crops we can grow in the autumn/winter/spring periods.
The whole building of it was a huge team effort. We got the frame second hand and everyone pulled together under Chess Bygrave’s watchful eye – as he spearheaded the construction of the tunnel and designed and built the extra features such as the doors.
It took around round a month to build and was challenging as we were also incredibly busy in the gardens at the time and we had lots of plants desperate to get planted in the ground waiting for it to be finished! Digging the trenches by hand was a massive job and then we had to wait for the right weather to put on the plastic.
We will be using it to grow tomatoes, peppers, aubergines in the summer, lots more salad in the winter and early crops of courgettes, beans, peas and chard. And maybe some peaches and apricots longer term.
In terms of sustainability we definitely see this as a positive step. The amount of food we can produce with zero food miles will definitely cover the plastic we have used for the skin. All the frame work can be recycled and as long as there are not fields and fields of them, when part of a growing system they are essential. We are always looking for a way to grow more of our own food on site so we’re really excited about it.
The new tunnel will aid teaching in postgraduate courses such as Regenerative Food, Farming and Enterprise and Engaged Ecology; our undergraduate course, Regenerative Food and Farming; and students on our long-running, six-month Practical Residency in Horticulture.