A new pilot project, introduced by USDA, would help farmers establish high tunnels, also known as hoop houses, to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. The three-year, 38-state study will verify if high tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to growers.
"This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations," said Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line."
Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move. High tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady incomes to farmers - a significant advantage to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers and organic producers. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is handling the program.