BEN GODFREY, organic producer and owner of Sand Creek Farm and Dairy and Todnechia Mitchell, NRCS district conservationist in Milam County, examine a sample of Romaine lettuce that was grown in a high tunnel.
Things are looking up in the small farm crop industry. Farmers who are embracing new ideas in farming technology are finding they can increase crop production, extend growing seasons, and generate extra income. A new farming trend uses seasonal high tunnels, sometimes called hoop houses, to help farmers grow locally grown, fresh food to sell in their communities.
These high tunnels look similar to greenhouses and are at least six feet in height, which modifies the climate inside to create more favorable growing conditions for vegetables and other specialty crops. Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipes covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move.
The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recognized the value of these structures and in 2010 delivered a three-year pilot program for seasonal high tunnels offered under the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative for farmers and producers. The project is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program.
Several north-central Texas producers learned about the program from NRCS field offices and workshops. They took advantage of the program and are using technical assistance from NRCS to find more diverse and creative ways to use the high tunnel technology.
“The seasonal high tunnels are getting a lot of notice in north-central Texas due to the extended growing season and better crop production,” said Todnechia Mitchell, NRCS district conservationist in Milam County, Texas.